Cli­mate re­port warns of grow­ing risks and costs,

Merced Sun-Star (Saturday) - - Front Page - BY SETH BORENSTEIN

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.

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