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Bipartisan report: Climate change could cost US hundreds of billions

Price tag estimated for global warming effects like storm damage, drought, crop loss, rising electricity use

Annual property losses from hurricanes and other coastal storms: $35 billion. A 14 percent decline in corn and wheat yields: tens of billions of dollars. Heat wave-driven demand for consumer electricity: up to $12 billion per year.

These are among the economic costs that climate change is expected to exact in the United States over the next 25 years, according to a bipartisan report released Tuesday.

The losses could soar to hundreds of billions of dollars by 2100, the report said.

Commissioned by a group chaired by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, former Secretary of the Treasury and Goldman Sachs alumnus Henry Paulson and environmentalist and financier Tom Steyer, the analysis "is the most detailed ever of the potential economic effects of climate change on the U.S.," said climatologist Michael Oppenheimer of Princeton University.

The report comes three weeks after President Barack Obama ordered U.S. regulators to take their strongest steps yet to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, including requiring power plants to cut carbon dioxide emissions to 30 percent below 2005 levels by 2030.

Called "Risky Business," the report projects climate impacts at scales as small as individual counties. Its conclusions about crop losses and other consequences are based not on computer projections, which climate-change skeptics routinely attack, but on data from past heat waves.

Click here for more coverage of the U.S. drought

It paints a grim picture of economic loss. "Our economy is vulnerable to an overwhelming number of risks from climate change," Paulson said in a news release, including from sea-level rise and from heat waves that could cause deaths, reduce labor productivity and strain power grids.

By mid-century, $66 billion to $106 billion worth of coastal property will likely be below sea level, the report said. It said there is a 5 percent chance that by 2100 the losses will reach $700 billion, with rising oceans leading to average annual losses from rising oceans of $42 billion to $108 billion along the Eastern Seaboard and Gulf of Mexico.

Extreme heat, especially in the Southwest, Southeast and upper Midwest, will hamper productivity as people are unable to work outdoors at construction and other jobs for sustained periods. The new analysis goes further than previous work in this particular area, said Princeton's Oppenheimer, by identifying places that will be "unsuited for outdoor activity."

The report said demand for electricity will surge as more people need air conditioning just to survive, straining generation and transmission capacity. That will likely require the construction of up to 95 gigawatts of generation capacity over the next 5 to 25 years, or roughly 200 average-size coal or natural gas power plants, according to the report.

As utilities add the construction costs to customers' bills, people and businesses will pay $8.5 billion to $30 billion more every year by the middle of the century, the analysis sad.

The report did not make policy prescriptions, concluding only that "it is time for all American business leaders and investors to get in the game and rise to the challenge of addressing climate change."


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