A federal report released late last month paints the most dire picture yet of the economic effects that climate change will have on the U.S. economy if humanity doesn't get serious about reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
The report warns that increased storms, rising ocean levels and heat waves could, by end of the century, cost the U.S. economy hundreds of billions of dollars per year in reduced crop production, increased wildfires, coastal property losses and damaged infrastructure.
Predictably, the White House has shrugged off the report as it pursues environmental and industrial policies that will worsen the problem. But this warning, like others coming from the entire global scientific community, must not be ignored.
For all its political controversy, the basic facts surrounding human-caused climate change aren't significantly debatable. In the past century, as humanity has burned exponentially more fossil fuels than ever before, the measurable presence of resulting greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide — which traps heat in the atmosphere — has skyrocketed.
Average global temperatures have risen faster during this time than any period in recorded history; six of the hottest years on record have come since 2010 alone. Sea ice is melting, sea levels and temperatures are rising and the frequency and severity of hurricanes and other weather disturbances are increasing.
None of these facts are in dispute. Those who deny the basic science of human-caused climate change, including President Donald Trump, are suggesting that all these sudden, unprecedented events — increased fossil-fuel burning, rising greenhouse gases, spikes in global temperatures, rising sea levels and the rest — are coincidental and unrelated. That's unfathomable, as scientists the world over concur.
The 1,600-page, congressionally mandated report released last month was compiled by 13 federal agencies drawing from some of the world's top scientists. It doesn't mince words: "Earth's climate is now changing faster than at any point in the history of modern civilization, primarily as a result of human activities," it begins. "The impacts of global climate change are already being felt in the United States and are projected to intensify in the future."
The administration's shortsighted prioritization of corporate profits over climate stability results in relaxed vehicle-emission and smokestack-pollution standards, which will increase greenhouse gases. Trump, last year, announced the U.S. withdrawal from the Paris Agreement, under which most of the world has pledged to reduce carbon emissions.
The White House decision to release this important report the day after Thanksgiving was clearly calculated to ensure that it sinks from public consciousness like a polar bear on melting ice. Science should be above politics. The survival of this planet is at stake.
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