Climate change is real and it’s going to cost us billions | Editorial
President Trump announced that he doesn't believe his own administration's report. "You can say 'I don't believe in gravity.' But if you step off the cliff, you are going down," one climate scientist told CNN.
The White House thought people wouldn't notice a hair-raising climate-change report if it was released at 2 p.m. on Black Friday, when we were recovering from food hangovers.
But it's hard not to notice, since most people know that average air temperatures are higher than they've ever been, that there's more flooding in the East, more wildfires in the West, and more droughts in the Midwest. And, they know that global warming has weaponized our weather.
The problem is getting the fossil-fuel industry, a driver of heat-trapping greenhouse gases, and other powerful forces, such as big agriculture, to stop causing lasting damage to the planet we inhabit, while unleashing brutal and damaging forces on the climate.
If those who deny the facts — including President Trump — don't care that thousands more people will meet premature deaths and countless others will suffer respiratory ailments, or that food supplies will be scarcer, that forests are shrinking, and coastlines are retreating, then they should consider the economic arguments.
How about paying for the damage of unrestrained climate change?
The National Climate Assessment contains the most detailed description of the economic impacts of climate change to date.
Climate-related disasters will suck up 10 percent of our entire economy by 2100. Heat-related deaths will cost $141 billion, sea-level rise will cost $118 billion, and damage to roads, bridges, and other infrastructure will cost $32 billion.
Ocean acidification is already killing shellfish and corals. The loss will amount to $230 million. Red tides, such as the one in Florida this summer, will be more frequent, killing fish and tourism. In just New Jersey and Delaware, rising sea levels and storm surges are expected to cost property owners $30 billion.
Cities, such as Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, with their abundance of pavement and lack of vegetation, will be worse hot spots than they already are. Rural Pennsylvania will have to cope with an increase in invasive plants and insects, and farmers will see crop yields and dairy production drop.
But President Trump announced this week that he just doesn't believe his own administration's report. That's as practical as not believing in gravity.
"You can say 'I don't believe in gravity.' But if you step off the cliff, you are going down," climate scientist Katherine Hayhoe, of Texas Tech University and an author of the report, told CNN.
Last month, the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said we've got 12 years to forestall the negative effects of climate change. The administration ignored that, too.
There are solutions, if we act now. The Trump administration should, but is unlikely, to stop undermining coal-plant and vehicle emission standards. Congress should impose a carbon tax on polluters and encourage clean, renewable energy development as well as shore up areas in harm's way.
Environmental protections can also happen at the state level. States, such as New Jersey and California, have enlightened approaches to protecting residents. But Pennsylvania's legislature has starved its environmental protection agency. Encourage Gov. Wolf to make an issue out of our survival and that of future generations with a far more aggressive response to climate change than we saw in his first term.