Published: Sat, November 24, 2018
Sci-tech | By Patricia Wade

Climate report warns of grim economic consequences, worsening weather disasters in US

Climate report warns of grim economic consequences, worsening weather disasters in US

The federal government on Friday released a long-awaited report with an unmistakable message: The effects of climate change, including deadly wildfires, increasingly debilitating hurricanes and heat waves, are already battering the United States, and the danger of more such catastrophes is worsening.

Climate change is already hurting the global economy and will cost the United States hundreds of billions of dollars by century's end unless drastic action is taken to cut carbon emissions, said a USA government report, which he White House called inaccurate.

"Future risks from climate change depend. on decisions made today", the 4th National Climate Assessment said.

The Trump administration published a key environmental report on Black Friday - one of the slowest news days of the year - as the U.S. populace hits the shopping malls after the Thanksgiving holiday.

The federal report says the last few years have smashed records for damaging weather in the U.S., costing almost $US400 billion ($553 billion) since 2015.

The report, which is mandated by law, "concludes that the evidence of human-caused climate change is overwhelming and continues to strengthen, that the impacts of climate change are intensifying across the country, and that climate-related threats to Americans' physical, social, and economic well-being are rising".

Severe weather and other impacts also increase the risk of disease transmission, decrease air quality, and can increase mental health problems, among other effects.

"With continued growth in emissions at historic rates, annual losses in some economic sectors are projected to reach hundreds of billions of dollars by the end of the century - more than the current gross domestic product (GDP) of many U.S. states", the report, the Fourth National ClimateAssessment Volume II, said.

The recent Northern California wildfires can be attributed to climate change, but there was less of a connection to those in Southern California, said co-author William Hohenstein of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Ultimately, climate change will hit the pocketbooks of the USA as well and "impede the rate of growth over this century", the report notes.

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But it added that projections of further damage could change if greenhouse gas emissions are sharply curbed, even though numerous impacts of climate change - including more frequent and more powerful storms, droughts and flooding - are already under way.

What does Trump say about climate change?

The studies clash with policy under Mr Trump, who has been rolling back Obama-era environmental and climate protections to maximise production of domestic fossil fuels, including crude oil, already the highest in the world, above Saudi Arabia and Russian Federation.

Earlier this week Trump mocked climate science, tweeting about cold weather in the Northeast and asking "Whatever happened to Global Warming?"

White House spokeswoman Lindsay Walters did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

"All climate change is local", said Pennsylvania State University climate scientist Richard Alley, who wasn't part of the report but praised it.

David Easterling, director of the Technical Support Unit at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's National Centers for Environmental Information, said in a conference call with reporters that "there has been no external interference" in the development of the report, but he and other federal officials presenting the report would not answer questions about whether the White House weighed in on its release date.

But federal officials faced criticism over its timing, with environmentalists, Democratic lawmakers and scientists among those accusing the Trump administration trying to bury the report by releasing it early, on a slow news day the Friday after Thanksgiving.

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