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As Congress discusses how much to spend on climate change, experts warn doing nothing will cost more

By on October 5, 2021 0

With Congress deadlocked on passing the climate change legislation contained in President Biden’s $ 3.5 trillion 10-year infrastructure plan, experts warn the cost of doing nothing will be many higher.

In a 2019 report, the federal government estimated that the United States could lose 10.5% of its gross domestic product (GDP), or total economic output, due to climate change – mainly due to events more frequent and severe extreme weather – by the end of this century. But the same report found that concerted action to prevent catastrophic climate change could avert those losses. If countries cut their greenhouse gas emissions to meet the goals of the 2015 Paris climate agreement, the United States could only experience a loss of 1.1% of GDP per capita.

Biden’s Build Back Better program contains a host of other provisions, including reforming prescription drug prices and supporting families with children, but environmentalists say his measures to encourage utilities to switch to the clean energy and consumers buying electric vehicles would put the United States on the track it pledged in Paris to halve its carbon emissions by 2030.

Sense. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., And Joe Manchin, DW.Va., after a private meeting between the two on Capitol Hill Thursday. (Jabin Botsford / Washington Post via Getty Images)

The Democratic Party is currently embroiled in an internal debate over the size of the spending envelope so bitter that activists are confronting Senate holdouts Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema – who say the price is too high – at home and even in The bathroom.

Corn climate change activists and experts ask, too steep compared to what? This year, after a summer of unprecedented heatwaves, wildfires and hurricanes, the cost of damage from natural disasters will exceed $ 100 billion in the United States alone, surpassing a record 99 billion dollars from last year. These dollar figures do not take into account the human toll – dozens of lives lost.

“If you project 50 or 100 years, the gap between where we could have been without climate change and where we are with climate change is huge, probably equivalent to the size of the whole of the world. ‘economy today,’ James Rising, a professor in the School of Marine Science and Policy at the University of Delaware, told Yahoo News.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has found that extreme weather events have become much more frequent in recent decades due to climate change. They will be even more common in the future if the world continues to depend on fossil fuels, meaning the costs of lost property and economic activity are expected to be much higher. A recent study by Science magazine found that if global temperatures continue to rise at their current rate, a 6-year-old today will experience “twice as many forest fires, 1.7 times as many tropical cyclones, 3.4 times more river flooding, 2.5 times more crops. failures and 2.3 times more droughts than a person born in 1960, ”according to the Washington Post.

Blue Ridge Fire

The Blue Ridge Fire arrives in Chino Hills, Calif. In October 2020 (David McNew / Getty Images)

Extreme weather conditions aren’t the only way climate change depresses economic activity. Heat waves and air pollution shorten lives and decrease productivity, in part by forcing workers to take sick leave. Droughts and floods will damage crop yields. Due to rising sea levels, valuable waterfront properties from Miami Beach to New York’s financial district may be uninhabitable by the turn of the century.

According to a 2017 study published in Science, if the world continues its momentum, climate change is likely to cost the United States 4% of its gross domestic product each year. Based on the current size of the total US economy, this would be $ 840 billion annually, and it will increase in the future.

This is a relatively conservative estimate. The more up-to-date an estimate of the climate change toll, the worse it becomes. Indeed, with each passing year, scientists find that global warming is happening faster than expected and that the negative effects of this warming, such as sea level rise, are also happening more quickly.

An article published last month in the journal Environmental Research Letters updated previous climate models to account for these new findings and predicted that without action to limit climate change, global GDP will suffer a loss of 37%, equivalent to to a loss of 300 trillion dollars per year by 2100..

San Gabriel Reservoir

The exposed lake bed of the San Gabriel Reservoir in Azusa, California is a result of ongoing drought conditions. (David McNew / Getty Images)

Part of the reason is that some of these faster-than-expected effects of climate change are making the process worse. “There are climate feedbacks in the system – like how the polar ice caps melt and the ocean absorbs more radiative energy – that occur faster than previously imagined,” Rising explained, co-author of the article.

These losses will start to accumulate well before the end of the century. “The effects of climate change are expected to reduce global economic output by 11-14% by 2050 from growth levels without climate change, according to a report from Swiss Re, one of the world’s largest insurance providers from other insurance companies. The New York Times reported in April. “This represents up to $ 23 trillion in reduction in annual global economic output worldwide due to climate change.”

These overall losses will not be evenly distributed. Poor countries with hot climates and largely coastal populations – places like Indonesia, the Philippines, Bangladesh and small island nations from the Caribbean to the South Pacific – will be particularly vulnerable.

And while Americans in the Interior States may think it has little to do with them, they only have to look at the destabilizing effects of refugee crises around the world to see what theirs is. future may hold in store for them when hundreds of millions of people have been displaced.

Joe biden

President Biden touting the bipartisan infrastructure bill and its Build Back Better program in Howell, Michigan on Tuesday. (Nicholas Kamm / AFP via Getty Images)

Of course, Biden’s plans alone won’t stop climate change in its tracks. The United States accounts for just 15% of current greenhouse gas emissions, and Biden has already compromised with his party moderates by limiting his proposed spending to much less than what scientists say is necessary to eliminate the American climate pollution. As HuffPost’s Alexander Kauffman reported earlier this year, “Most estimates indicate that it would take over 4-5% of GDP, or nearly $ 1 trillion per year over 10 years, to completely decarbonise the US economy.

But Biden’s plan is only meant to be a first step in helping to secure global climate action. The successor to the 2015 Paris agreement will be negotiated next month at the United Nations climate summit in Glasgow, Scotland. The Biden administration hopes to arrive with strong US actions to limit its own issuance in hand so it can credibly call on other major economies, like China, to do the same.

So Biden’s allies are trying to convince their own party skeptics that cutting clean energy spending is wise but foolish. As the Chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Frank Pallone, DN.J., told The Associated Press last week: “The climate crisis is here and the cost of inaction is already huge.


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