How Much Climate Change Will Cost the US Economy

How Much Climate Change Will Cost the US Economy


The White House released the second volume of the “Fourth National Climate Assessment” last Friday, on a day when much of the country was out shopping or home recovering from the Thanksgiving holiday. The massive report from the US Global Change Research Program draws on the work of 13 federal agencies – including the Department of Defense, the Environmental Protection Agency and NASA – and more than 300 scientists. And the overall message is that climate change is both undeniably real and increasingly costly — and could produce some new challenges for the federal budget.

“The news is predictably bad,” Bloomberg’s Eric Roston said, “but this time the tally comes with a pricetag—one significantly larger than you’ll find at the mall.” Here are some of the economic costs cited in the assessment:

* Assuming the current trajectory continues, climate change will cost the US economy about $500 billion a year by the end of the century.

* Lost wages could cost $160 billion a year, as extreme temperatures generate job losses and reduced productivity in some kinds of work, such as agriculture and construction.  

* Rising energy costs could cost an additional $87 billion a year due to increased demand for heating and cooling.

* About $500 billion worth of real estate is at risk from rising sea levels, and damage to infrastructure could cost billions of dollars every year. The destruction of bridges from flooding alone could cost $1.2 billion a year by 2050.

*  The loss of natural resources that are currently used for food and recreation will generate billions in losses; for example, damage to coastlines could cost the tourism industry $140 billion a year.

The good news is that there are still steps we can take to reduce these costs, such as dramatically reducing carbon dioxide emissions. “Future impacts and risks from climate change are directly tied to decisions made in the present,” the assessment says.

It will be difficult to take those steps in the current political environment, however. Asked about the climate report Monday, President Trumps dismissed the whole thing, saying, “Yeah, I don’t believe it,” adding that in his view, the U.S. is “the cleanest” it’s ever been.

Read a summary of the report from The New York Times here and the full text here.