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In one of the first attempts to attach a dollar figure to the impacts of climate change, researchers from the University of Maryland's Center for Integrative Environmental Research have tallied up the long-term financial and infrastructural costs 8 states -- Illinois, Michigan, Nevada, New Jersey, Colorado, Georgia, Kansas and Ohio -- will incur over the coming years. The costs, which already run in the billions for some, could get even higher if the states don't take immediate action.
The costs of climate change are being ignored
Not surprisingly, they found that many of these costs were either being significantly discounted or omitted entirely from state budgets, particularly those attributed to the indirect effects of climate change -- which can be as substantial, if not more so, than those associated with the direct effects. No region of the country will be spared, they say, and they plan on releasing reports for the other 42 states in the coming months.
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No sector of the economy spared
Their main conclusions were: no sector of the economy will be spared; all our essential infrastructures, including water and electricity, will be affected; and all ecosystems will suffer in some capacity. The individual state costs are based only on existing climate change impacts, which means they are, or will soon become, much higher in reality.
Here are the reports' main findings, by state:
Colorado: More than $1 billion in losses due to impacts on tourism, forestry, water resources and human health from a predicted drier, warmer climate.
Georgia: Multi-million dollar losses from predicted higher seas along Georgia's coast.
Kansas: Losses exceeding $1 billion from impact on agriculture of predicted warmer temperatures and reduced water supply in much of the state.
Illinois: Billions of dollars in losses from impact on shipping, trade and water resources. Warmer temperatures and lower water levels predicted for much of the state.
Michigan: Billions of dollars in losses from damage to the state's shipping and water resources. Warmer temperatures and lower water levels predicted for much of the state.
Nevada: Billions of dollars in losses from a much drier climate and pressure on scarce water resources. Water limitations could affect tourism, real estate, development and human health. Many western states may confront similar challenges.
New Jersey: Billions of dollars in losses from higher sea levels and the impact on tourism, transportation, real estate and human health.
Ohio: Billions of dollars in losses from warmer temperatures and lower water levels and the resulting impact on shipping and water supplies.
Placing an imperative on fixing our crumbling infrastructure
As I've written about before, one of the country's biggest vulnerabilities, which only Obama has addressed to some extent, is the shoddy state of our national infrastructure. It seems as though the only time we ever focus on the dilapidated state of our bridges, highways and levees is when an accident or major disaster occurs.
Fixing our infrastructure is not only a question of preparing for the future impacts of climate change: It's a matter of national security and of staying economically competitive in a globalized world. Of course, the other major benefit of repairing, and greening, our infrastructure is that we could generate millions of new, well-paying green collar jobs. Given the current precarious state of our economy, this could not come at a better time.
Whether or not you agree with the reports' actual findings -- number-wise, that is (and, as with all such studies, they are only rough estimates) -- what is clear is that we are grossly underprepared to deal with a looming climate crisis and need a thorough overhaul of our environmental and economic policies.
Via ::ScienceDaily: Cow Power Could Generate Electricity For Millions (news website)
The costs of delaying action on climate change
::Tallying Up the Infrastructure Costs of Climate Change
::"Climate Change: The Costs Of Inaction"
::Yale Professor Democratizes Climate-Action Cost Models