Friday, September 29, 2017

Costs of Climate Change:  Early Estimate for Hurricanes, Fires Reaches $300 Billion

A new report starts adding up the damage from the past few weeks of western wildfires and Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria.  It sees climate costs rising.

Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria hit U.S. communities and farms as powerful storms within weeks of one another, causing extensive damage to public and private property. (Credit: Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty) Click to Enlarge.
The devastation from hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria—plus dozens of wildfires that raged across the West in early August—could result in the costliest string of weather events in U.S. history, according to a new report.

Over the course of a few weeks, the hurricanes and wildfires left a trail of damage that could add up to nearly $300 billion, according to early estimates from the authors of The Economic Case for Climate Action in the United States, a report released on Wednesday by the nonprofit Universal Ecological Fund.  If they're right, the cost of the damage would be equivalent to nearly half the president's proposed 2018 budget for the Department of Defense.

"The evidence in undeniable.  These recent extreme weather events are a continuation of a three-decades trend of increasing numbers, intensities and costs of severe storms, hurricanes, flooding, droughts, and wildfires," said report co-author Robert Watson, a former chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.  "Simply, the more fossil fuels we burn, the faster the climate continues to change and cost.  Thus, transitioning to a low-carbon economy is essential for economic growth and is cheaper than the gigantic costs of inaction."

Adding up the economic losses from extreme weather events, more frequent weather events and the health impacts from air pollution, the report found that over the last decade, the United States has lost an average of $240 billion each year.  And that's projected to go up.

In the decade ahead, those economic losses and health costs could reach $360 billion annually, the report says.

The study echoes recent work by economists who sought to quantify the steep costs associated with climate change.  A study published in the journal Science in June found that every degree Celsius that the planet warms could be associated with a loss of roughly 1.2 percent of the United States' GDP.  The authors found that those impacts were not distributed evenly and could result in widening inequality.

Read more at Costs of Climate Change:  Early Estimate for Hurricanes, Fires Reaches $300 Billion

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