Terry H. Schwadron
Nov. 24, 2018
Sometimes you just love it when the government says one thing one day and the opposite the next day — — as in announcements about the health of a cup of coffee varying from one day to the next.
For many days — or years — for example, President Trump has argued that there is no such thing as Climate Change, or that there may be some climate change, but it isn’t caused by humans, or that even if climate change exists full bloom globally, this country will not be told how to act in response by the world community.
Besides, cutting environmental regulations and corporate taxes are the fastest routes to a growth-oriented economy which this country needs to thrive, he argues. Thus, in response to an interviewer’s questions about to what he would offer gratitude for Thanksgiving, Trump basically said humbly, well himself, for making Life so much better in this America First era.
So, yesterday’s announcement of a major scientific report by 13 federal agencies of the same government warning that unchecked climate change could adversely affect at least 10 percent of the U.S. economyran smack into the Trump message.
It turns out that the report was mandated by Congress, and so was required to be made public by the White House. Its findings are blunt: Start working on the problem or expect economic problems as well as climate-oriented affects.
The report comes about two weeks after a multi-nation UN report said that unless steps are taken immediately to halt some manmade pollutants, substantial climate change effects will start within 20 years and prove unrepairable.
As president, Trump, of course, has tasked the Environmental Protection Agency to lead an aggressive campaign to roll back Obama-era (and longer) regulations in order to free business from regulations ranging from pollution from vehicle tailpipes and power plant smokestacks to water discharges into streams and rivers. Trump has withdrawn the United States from the Paris Climate Accords under which nearly every country in the world pledged to cut carbon emissions. As The New York Times noted, just this week, he mocked the science of climate change because of a cold snap in the Northeast, tweeting, “Whatever happened to Global Warming?”
In direct language, the 1,656-page assessment outlines devastating effects of a changing climate on the economy, health and environment, including record wildfires in California, crop failures in the Midwest and crumbling infrastructure in the South. Going forward, American exports and supply chains could be disrupted, agricultural yields could fall to 1980s levels by midcentury and fire season could spread to the Southeast, the report finds. In all, climate change could slash up to a tenth of gross domestic product by 2100, more than double the losses of the Great Recession a decade ago.
Surprisingly, perhaps, there was no apparent effort byadministration officials to alter or suppress its findings. Previously government websites, including the White House pages, had been scrubbed of any mention of climate change.
The report is the second volume of the National Climate Assessment, which the federal government is required by law to produce every four years. The first volume. The Times said that this report puts the most precise price tags to date on the cost to the United States economy of projected climate impacts: $141 billion from heat-related deaths, $118 billion from sea level rise and $32 billion from infrastructure damage by the end of the century, among others. It emphasizes that the outcomes depend on how swiftly and decisively the United States and other countries take action to mitigate global warming through reductions of greenhouse gas emissions, which usually means imposing taxes or fees on companies that release carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, establishing government regulations on how much greenhouse pollution can be emitted and spending public money on clean-energy research.
Per the report, no area of the country will be untouched, from the Southwest, where droughts will curb hydropower and tax already limited water supplies, to Alaska, where the loss of sea ice will cause coastal flooding and erosion and force communities to relocate, to Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, where saltwater will taint drinking water. More people will die as heat waves become more common, the scientists say, and a hotter climate will also lead to more outbreaks of disease.
Trade and agriculture could suffer disruptions, tariff policies and jawboning in the White House notwithstanding. Extreme weather events driven by global warming are “virtually certain to increasingly affect U.S. trade and economy, including import and export prices and businesses with overseas operations and supply chains,” the report concludes. Such disasters will temporarily shut factories both in the United States and abroad, causing price spikes for products from apples to automotive parts, the scientists predicted. So much of the supply chain for American companies is overseas that almost no industry will be immune from the effects of climate change at home or abroad, the
The nation’s farm belt is likely to be among the hardest-hit regions, and farmers will see their profits threatened. By 2050, the scientists forecast, changes in rainfall and hotter temperatures will reduce the agricultural productivity of the Midwest to levels last seen in the 1980s. The risks, the report noted, depend on the ability of producers to adapt to changes.
The report says the Midwest, as well as the Northeast, will also experience more flooding when it rains, like the 2011 Missouri River flood that inundated a nuclear power plant near Omaha, forcing it to shut down for years. Other parts of the country, including much of the Southwest, will endure worsening droughts, further taxing limited groundwater supplies. Those droughts can lead to fires, a phenomenon that played out this fall in California as the most destructive wildfire in state history killed dozens of people
Frequent wildfires will also become more common in the Southeast. The 2016 Great Smoky Mountains wildfires, which killed 14 people and burned more than 17,000 acres in Tennessee, may have been just the beginning.
So much for a consistent message.