New Report Says Climate Change will have Massive Health and Economic Impacts

A new U.S. Government Report on Climate Change provides warnings about the direction the United States is headed if we fail to reduce greenhouse emissions and fossil fuel usage. The destructive effects include: the elimination of fragile ecosystems, infrastructure, water availability and “annual losses in some economic sectors are projected to reach hundreds of billions of dollars by the end of the century.” Though climate change is unstoppable, the report notes that if actions are taken to reduce emissions immediately, “it could save thousands of lives and generate billions of dollars in benefits for the country.”

Courtesy: Jed Owen

Despite the extremely cold temperatures in areas of the country this season, climate change is imminent and reflective of long-term trends rather than yearly differences. “The number of days over 100 degrees Fahrenheit will multiply,” with Chicago beginning to resemble Phoenix or Las Vegas.

So, what are some of the predicted effects of climate change in the next century? Here’s what you need to know:

Health

According to the report, an increase in foodborne and waterborne illnesses will rise with hotter temperatures. Cases of West Nile virus transmitted through mosquitoes are “expected to more than double by 2050.” The higher temps will also increase the frequency and severity of allergies and reactions to conditions like asthma.

Water

“Changes in the relative amounts and timing of snow and rainfall,” the report says, “are leading to mismatches between water availability and needs in some regions, posing threats to, for example, the future reliability of hydropower production in the Southeast and Northwest.” It will also be more difficult for Hawaii and islands in the Caribbean to find safe water sources. 

Economy

The United States will suffer losses in infrastructure and property due to heavy rain, flooding, natural disasters and other climate-related effects such as surging wildfires. Attempting to rebuild the structures will then result in economic losses. Higher temperatures will also mean higher electricity costs, more power outages and a loss in labor in the hottest areas of the country. “The costs of climate change could be hundreds of billions of dollars annually,” the report says. There will also be immense financial losses for coastal communities and businesses which will need shoreline protection.

Agriculture

The agricultural industry will suffer some of the greatest losses in crop yields as a result of high temperatures and changes in the availability of water and the potential of disease and pest outbreaks. According to CNN’s coverage of the report, farms in the Midwest “will be able to produce less than 75% of the corn they produce today, and the southern part of the region could lose more than 25% of its soybean yield.” Dairy and fish producers will also be impacted.

Tourism

The tourism industry will suffer great economic losses as sea levels and temperatures rise. Areas that rely on a pristine coastline with the availability for numerous water sports will suffer, as will winter destinations that need a sufficient amount of snow each season to attract visitors.

Ecosystems/Coastal Areas

Fragile ecosystems along the coast and within the U.S. will be affected by rising temperatures in the next 100 years. Rising water temperatures, ocean acidification, an increase in sea level, and a swell in storm surges are just some of the effects of greenhouse emissions. Climate change will also include “the migration of native species to new areas and the spread of invasive species,” according to the report.