Monday, November 26, 2018

Climate change will hurt farmers, cost hundreds of billions by 2100, federal government scientists warn

"The U.S. government's climate scientists issued a blunt warning on Friday, writing that global warming is a growing threat to human life, property and ecosystems across the country, and that the economic damage—from worsening heat waves, extreme weather, sea level rise, droughts and wildfires—will spiral in the coming decades," Bob Berwyn reports for Inside Climate News. In the worst-case scenario, global warming costs could total 10 percent of the U.S. gross domestic product by the end of the century.

The Fourth National Climate Assessment, written by a scientific panel representing 13 federal agencies, said that those effects can be mitigated if the United States and other countries cut greenhouse-gas emissions, especially from burning fossil fuels. Limiting global warming to 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit would save hundreds of billions of dollars in future damages, the panel reports.

Midwest farmers are already seeing the effects of climate change; drought accounted for about a third of all crop insurance payouts from 2000 to 2016. And there's more to come: "Climate change will hit the Corn Belt particularly hard. Under a high-emissions scenario, the Midwest will see greater increases in warm-season temperatures than anywhere else in the country, with the frost-free season projected to increase by an average of 10 days from 2016 to 2045," Berwyn reports.

Though some parts of the U.S. economy may improve in the short term because of a slightly warmer world, lack of mitigation in the long run will hurt regional economies and industries, increase electricity costs, and affect U.S. export and import prices, the report says.

"For example, heat waves and droughts can cut energy production if there is not enough water to cool power plants, which can limit manufacturing and even affect health care in hospitals," Berwyn reports. "Hurricane Harvey's damage to power infrastructure affected water-treatment plants and refineries, shutting down 11 percent of U.S. oil refining capacities and causing a temporary spike in gas prices."

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