Coral Davenport at the National Journal has written an excellent accounting of the many costs business and taxpayers are already paying due to climate change. The oyster industry has been hit hard:
Since 1972, it’s been home to the Whiskey Creek Shellfish Hatchery, one of the three largest suppliers of oyster larvae to the Pacific Northwest shellfish industry, which is valued at $270 million a year. For more than three decades, Whiskey Creek produced 7 billion to 10 billion oyster larvae annually, sending them to nearly 50 other farms throughout the Northwest. The full-grown oysters are then shipped to markets and restaurants around the country. But in 2008, the company’s production plunged to just 2.5 billion larvae. Panicked, the owners called in Alan Barton, a biologist and oyster expert at the University of Oregon.
He spent months running tests to determine what was wrong. “I came here thinking I was an oyster hotshot,” Barton says. “But I couldn’t figure it out.” One day, a lab test showed something surprising: The carbon levels of the ocean water were at abnormally high levels, rending it intensely acidic. Repeated tests showed that the highly acidic ocean water was eating away at the oyster shells, killing the sensitive larvae.
Yet, Congress has still failed to act.
Over the past year, House Republicans have voted to block programs aimed at researching the effects of climate change on the United States, programs to help farmers adapt to the impact of climate change, and a Securities and Exchange Commission requirement that companies disclose financial risk related to climate change. In some state legislatures, lawmakers have pushed to have scientific data on the effects of climate change excised from development and infrastructure plans.
“Up until recently, the debate was, how much does it cost us to address climate change—and the cost of acting overwhelmed us,” says Matthias Ruth, an economist at Northeastern University who has published a series of reports on the economic impact of climate change on various states. “The cost of inaction is at the same order of magnitude, if not higher, than doing something about it.”
If you want to really understand the huge costs of not addressing climate change or want to persuade a pro-business, climate-denying relative or friend about the case for action, this is a great place to start.