Climate report warns of growing risks and costs,
As people rebuild after two major hurricanes and California’s catastrophic wildfires recede, a massive new federal report warns that these types of extreme weather disasters are worsening in the United States.
The White House report was quietly issued Friday.
The National Climate Assessment was written long before the deadly fires in California this month and Hurricanes Florence and Michael raked the East Coast and Florida. It says warming-charged extremes “have already become more frequent, intense, widespread or of long duration.”
The federal report says the last few years have smashed records for damaging weather in the U.S., costing nearly $400 billion since 2015.
“Annual losses in some economic sectors are projected to reach hundreds of billions of dollars by the end of the century – more than the current gross domestic product (GDP) of many U.S. states,” the report says. It’ll be especially costly on the nation’s coasts because of rising seas and severe storm surges, which will lower property values. And in some areas, such as parts of Alaska and Louisiana, coastal flooding will likely force people to relocate.
“We are seeing the things we said would be happening, happen now in real life,” said report coauthor Katharine Hayhoe of Texas Tech University. “As a climate scientist it is almost surreal.”
And report co-author Donald Wuebbles, a University of Illinois climate scientist, said, “We’re going to continue to see severe weather events get stronger and more intense.”
The air pollution from wildfires combined with heat waves is a major future health risk for the West, the report says. During the fires in northern California, air quality hit “hazardous” levels, according to government air monitoring agencies.
“There’s real concern about how the West will be able to manage this increasing occurrence,” said report co-author Kristie Ebi, a University of Washington public health professor. She said global warming is already harming people’s health, but it will only get worse.
The report is mandated by law every few years and is based on hundreds of previous research studies. It details how global warming from the burning of coal, oil and gas is hurting each region of the United States and how it impacts different sectors of the economy, including energy and agriculture.
“Climate change is transforming where and how we live and presents growing challenges to human health and quality of life, the economy, and the natural systems that support us,” the report says.
That includes worsening air pollution causing heart and lung problems, more diseases from insects, the potential for a jump in deaths during heat waves, and nastier allergies.
What makes the report different from others is that it focuses on the United States, then goes more local and granular.
“All climate change is local,” said Pennsylvania State University climate scientist Richard Alley, who wasn’t part of the report but praised it.
The Lower 48 states have warmed 1.8 degrees (1 degree Celsius) since 1900 including 1.2 degrees in the last few decades, according to the report. By the end of the century, the U.S. will be 3 to 12 degrees (1.6 to 6.6 degrees Celsius) hotter depending on how much greenhouse gases are released into the atmosphere, the report warns.
Aerial photo taken over Mexico Beach, Fla., shows the devastation wrought by Hurricane Michael . The new, massive, federal report released Friday warns that extreme weather disasters like Michael are worsening in the United States.