In his State of the Union Address Tuesday President Obama said Congress can no longer ignore climate change. The president made the connection between climate change and the disasters that are costing the economy billions of dollars a year:
“But for the sake of our children and our future, we must do more to combat climate change...We can choose to believe that Superstorm Sandy, and the most severe drought in decades, and the worst wildfires some states have ever seen were all just a freak coincidence. Or we can choose to believe in the overwhelming judgment of science – and act before it’s too late.”
Most Republican politicians deny it exists or call it a left-wing conspiracy, but the truth is climate change is real, it is here, it is mostly caused by man-made carbon pollution, and it is costing us a lot of money. Coral Davenport wrote an article in the National Journal last week that made the case for the cost of climate change on every American.This article lists some of Davenport's findings.
Extreme weather hurting economy, taxpayers, and insurance policyholders
Globally, extreme weather and climate change are already shaving $1.2 trillion a year or 1.6% off worldwide gross domestic product. By 2030, it will cost the United States over 2% of its GDP.
Heat waves and droughts in the Midwest and Southwest have driven crop yields down and food prices up resulting in record payouts for crop-insurance claims. Climate change could increase investment-portfolio risk by 10% over the next two decades by disrupting supply chains. A hit of that size would hurt 401K’s, pension funds, and IRA’s.
More frequent wildfires and floods are damaging infrastructure, causing power outages and fuel-price spikes in the U.S. One storm, Superstorm Sandy, cost taxpayers over $60 billion this year—on top of what it cost insurance companies who will pass the cost on to policyholders. Last year there were 11 weather disasters that cost $1 billion or more each. The insurance industry estimates that its losses from 2012’s natural disasters will total $58 billion—more than double the average yearly losses of $27 billion from 2000 to 2011.
Alternating droughts and floods have disrupted shipping traffic on the Mississippi River, and lowered water levels on the Great Lakes have raised shipping companies’ costs by an average of up to 22%. This increases costs at the supermarket.
Increased carbon levels in the oceans leads to more acidic water, threatening marine ecosystems around the globe as well as the various industries that depend on them. One Shellfish Hatchery in Oregon saw its oyster larvae production collapse from 7 to 10 billion in 2008, part of an oyster crash that hit both U.S. coasts.
Climate Change causing water shortages
As precipitation becomes less reliable, fresh water is becoming harder and harder to come by. The United Nations is projecting that by 2025, two-thirds of the world’s population could be living under water-stressed conditions. Scarcity of fresh water is intensifying conflicts between various U.S. states, as Colorado, Nebraska, Kansas, Texas, Oklahoma, and New Mexico.
One of the biggest ironies of this situation is that many of the biggest carbon emitters in the nation, the power generation industries, are feeling pinched by the shortages. A typical coal-fired power plant can consume up to 11 million gallons of water to operate each day. During the 2011 drought in Texas, water shortages threatened more than 3,000 megawatts of generating capacity, enough power to supply over a million homes.
Sea levels may be rising up to 60% faster than predicted. A 2012 study by the U.S. Geological Survey, which found that sea levels along the East Coast will rise 3 to 4 times faster than the global average. Globally, scientists now project sea levels to rise another 1 to 4 feet by the end of this century, Davenport wrote.
Red states are the most vulnerable
One of the ironies in the climate change debate is that the states suffering the most from climate change are represented in Congress and governed by Republicans, most of whom are the most vocal deniers. The South, at risk from tornadoes, floods, and hurricanes and the Midwest and mountain states at risk from drought and fires also send climate change deniers to Congress.
Unfortunately, it is doubtful Republicans will do anything to slow down carbon pollution, but at least the president is keeping the issue on the news.