Climate change will severely affect US economy, particularly in Midwest: Report

The report says the Midwest is particularly susceptible to economic losses.

November 24, 2018, 6:19 AM

A newly released report issued by 13 federal agencies on Friday explains in great depth the potential consequences of climate change on the United States and warns that neglecting to take action could drastically impede economic growth over the next century.

The report, written with the help of over 1,000 people, including about 300 scientists from outside the government, indicates that climate change could have a significant impact on trade and overseas operations.

The report lays out the impacts of climate change on natural resources and environmental services in U.S. territories from Puerto Rico to the country’s Midwest region, which comprises 18 percent of the country’s GDP through agricultural production.

The findings also aggressively dispute President Donald Trump’s repeated claims that climate change is a "hoax."

“Brutal and Extended Cold Blast could shatter ALL RECORDS — Whatever happened to Global Warming?” Trump tweeted in response to the record-breaking temperatures that were expected during Thanksgiving.

Despite the president’s sentiments on climate change, the extensive report suggests that with the absence of global mitigation, the effects of climate change will only get worse.

Here’s a closer look:

Who will it affect?

“This will have an impact everywhere in the country,” said Andrew Light, professor of philosophy, public policy and atmospheric sciences, and director of the Institute for Philosophy and Public Policy at George Mason University.

Although climate change is expected to affect the country as a whole, there are a few communities who will feel the effects the most, the report said, including people who are already living in low-income and marginalized communities.

“Low-income communities and some communities of color are often already overburdened with poor environmental conditions and are disproportionately affected by, and less resilient to, the health impacts of climate change,” the report stated.

Native American and Alaskan Native communities, for example, are in danger of increased health risks because of some traditional food and practices, damage to water and sanitation systems, decreased food security and new infectious diseases.

Other vulnerable populations include minority groups, people in high-income regions, women and people with mental illnesses since they all lack the resources and information needed to safeguard themselves from the risks of climate change, the report said.

“The findings in the Trump administration’s NCA report show how the health and daily lives of Americans are becoming more and more interrupted because of climate change. Communities of color and those on the front lines feel these impacts the hardest and we feel them first,” Dr. Beverly Wright, the founding director of the Deep South Center for Environmental Justice, said in a press release.

“We challenge the administration to finally begin using this information to rebuild and strengthen the communities in the direct path of the atrocities wrought by the fossil fuel industry and decades of poor policies that have neglected our concerns,” she continued.

Ice floats near the coast of West Antarctica viewed from a window of a NASA Operation IceBridge airplane, Oct. 27, 2016, in-flight over Antarctica.
Mario Tama/Getty Images, FILE

Trade impacts

The report concluded that rising temperatures, rising sea levels, and changes in extreme events are expected to “increasingly disrupt” and “critically damage” infrastructure and labor productivity, affecting import and export prices.

Extreme climate disasters could hinder factory production in both the United States and abroad, resulting in price increases in products and crops. According to the report, American businesses rely so heavily on production and supply chains overseas that there wouldn't be an industry that goes unaffected.

The Midwest region is expected to be hit the hardest, with higher temperatures, drought and flooding contributing to a decline in soybeans and corn -- two of the Midwest's main commodities, the report said. As a result, the region could potentially produce less than 75 percent of the corn it currently produces, and lose more than 25 percent of its soybean yield.

To combat this issue, scientists stressed effectively planning and implementing strategies that reduce risk or adapt to the changing environment.

Health risks

Frequent changes in temperature and increased air pollution from wildfires and ozone pollution could cause health issues to surge.

“Rising air and water temperatures and more intense extreme events are expected to increase exposure to waterborne and foodborne diseases, affecting food and water safety,” the report said.

A section of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet with mountains is viewed from a window of a NASA Operation IceBridge airplane, Oct. 28, 2016 in-flight over Antarctica.
Mario Tama/Getty Images

Those with allergy-related illnesses, like asthma and hay fever, could see an increase in severity because of climate change, it said.

Although the report suggests that no one is immune to the effects of climate change, children, low-income communities and older adults are groups that face higher risks of health issues due to factors such as increased temperatures.

The report predicts the Midwest will be largely impacted by increased temperatures, resulting in 2,000 premature deaths by 2090.

“Adaptation and mitigation policies and programs that help individuals, communities, and states prepare for the risks of a changing climate reduce the number of injuries, illnesses and deaths from climate-related health outcomes,” the report stated.

The resolution

The scientists who worked on the report implored the U.S. not to ignore greenhouse gas emissions, which are expected to cause “substantial net damage” to the country’s economy throughout the century.

“With continued growth in emissions at historic rates, 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 of many U.S. states,” the report concluded.

Trump has praised the use of fossil fuels in the past, and the administration stood by this on Friday.

“The United States leads the world in providing affordable, abundant, and secure energy to our citizens, while also leading the world in reducing carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions,” White House deputy press secretary Lindsay Walters told ABC News in response to the study. “The report is largely based on the most extreme scenario, which contradicts long-established trends by assuming that, despite strong economic growth that would increase greenhouse gas emissions, there would be limited technology and innovation, and a rapidly expanding population.”

But scientists who have reviewed the report had different views, and backed the report's findings.

“I can only hope the president accepts this report,” Kim Knowlton, deputy director of the Natural Resources Defense Council, said in a teleconference call. “Our actions are the result of climate change, but our actions will be the solution.”

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