The hidden costs of climate change to the US are nothing short of extreme. According to a new report, increasingly frequent or potent wildfires, hurricanes, floods, and droughts are hitting the American taxpayer with a bill of $240 billion each year.
This will rise to $360 billion in the next decade if mitigation efforts fail.
The study, authored by the non-profit Universal Ecological Fund, carefully analyzed the costs of both extreme weather events and the direct and indirect negative effects that using fossil fuels will have on human health.
According to the researchers, this is only a partial assessment, as many more climate change-based costs are not taken into account here. Additionally, the data used for this report also did not include the damage caused by the ongoing Atlantic hurricane season, which is thought to be record-breaking in terms of its combined economic cost.
This means that this report is a conservative estimate, and the real figure is likely to be somewhat higher yet. This year, for example, already has a bill of $300 billion, and that’s down to Hurricanes Irma, Harvey, and Maria – and those persistent wildfires – alone.
“That is double the $145 billion cost of all hurricanes in the last decade,” the authors note in a press release.
Burning fossil fuels are costly for multiple reasons, and not just through air pollution-related health disorders and stronger natural disasters. Increased temperatures make people sick, drive up healthcare costs, and slow down the economy, while climate change-exacerbated natural disasters don’t just destroy infrastructure and sink cities, they also eradicate agriculture, consume resources, and spread disease.
As a bonus, if you’re one of those few nations that don’t switch from fossil fuels to renewables, you are literally costing your country jobs and, once again, slowing down the economy. All in all, it’s expensive to not act on climate change and to be a climate denialist.
Another recent study revealed that thanks to a combination of all three, America is set to enter an economic recession by 2100 that it may not be able to get out of for generations to come. Meanwhile, states that are switching to clean energy are raking in billions of dollars every year.
Still, the net effect will be that the Land of the Free will be faced with a continually rising climate change bill. As the new report reveals, the total cost will reach just over half of all US economic growth in just a single decade.
The report isn’t just a tome full of bad news. As inferred by its title, The Economic Case for Climate Action in the United States, it’s a call to action, one aimed squarely at the Trump administration.
The authors of the report – which include the former Chair of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the Professor of Oceanography at Harvard University – explain that 500,000 new jobs can be created by doubling the nation’s share of renewable energy.
An extra 50,000 jobs in science and engineering would spring up if modest innovations in clean energy tech were made, and 250,000 more would appear if carbon capture and storage systems were constructed. A nationwide carbon tax could also generate $200 billion in revenue.
Money and jobs – a lingo that even the President will understand. Will he listen though?
The report includes a timely statement by the late President Kennedy. “There are risks and costs to a program of action,” he once said. “But they are far less than the long-range risks and costs of comfortable inaction.”