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A month after the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a group of scientists convened by the United Nations, issued its bone-chilling report on the severe economic and humanitarian crises expected to hit the world by 2040, a new report (conveniently dropped on Black Friday) outlines the specific risks to the United States.
Mandated by Congress and produced every four years by a baker’s dozen of federal agencies, the report concluded that if human-induced climate change is not addressed, the U.S. economy will shrink by 10 percent by the end of the century. That’s twice the losses of the 2008 recession. The 1,656-page assessment bluntly outlines devastating repercussions that will touch every aspect of life, from food costs and availability to the spread of disease, deteriorating infrastructure and the loss of outdoor tourism and recreational resources.
Here are four of the most alarming points:
The price tag is staggering: This is the most detailed report to date on the actual costs and impact of climate change on U.S. economy, environment and health. The price tags would make Jeff Bezos blush—$141 billion from heat-related deaths, $118 billion from sea level rise and $32 billion from infrastructure damage by 2100, just for starters.
No one will be spared: Today we hear about the immediate effects of climate change on coffee growers in Nicaragua and small Pacific islands slowly losing ground to the sea, but soon every region of the country will see the consequences in their backyards. The report predicts more frequent heat waves across the country, droughts in the Southwest, flooding in the Midwest, Northeast and Alaska, and the spread of seasonal wildfires, just like the ones that devastated California in November, to the Southeast.
Trade and Agriculture will not be industries for the faint of heart: The heightened frequency of extreme weather events will shutter factories and freeze shipping routes, interrupting supply chains and pushing up costs, according to the report.
Farmers will have to confront drought, wildfires and floods, all of which are predicted to increase along with rising temperatures, which could lead to a drop in crop yields and quality. In roughly 30 years, the report forecasts, U.S. farms could drop to 1980s levels of production.
Something must be done: “The assumption that current and future climate conditions will resemble the recent past is no longer valid,” the report’s authors conclude.
Intervention and action are needed, as the greatest variable is the amount of carbon emissions produced by human activity. The scientists behind the report offer a handful of suggestions: establishing a price or tax for greenhouse gas emissions; developing government regulations for how much greenhouse pollution can be released; and investing public funds in clean-energy research.