Every year of delays in addressing the climate-changing effects of carbon emissions could cost the United States $150 billion, the White House has warned in a new report, adding that inaction could push the global climate over the “tipping point” and lead to abrupt consequences.
"Although delaying action can reduce costs in the short run, on net, delaying action to limit the effects of climate change is costly," according to the report, released Tuesday.
"A delay that results in warming of 3 degrees C (5.4 degrees F) above preindustrial levels, instead of 2 degrees, could increase economic damages by approximately 0.9 percent of global output," the report said. That amount represents $150 billion of the estimated 2014 U.S. gross domestic product (GDP).
Many scientists have described a 2-degree temperature rise as a “red line” which, if crossed, could unleash abrupt climate consequences.
"These costs are not one-time, but are rather incurred year after year because of the permanent damage caused by increased climate change resulting from the delay," according to the report.
A bipartisan report released in June said climate change, left unchecked, could cost the U.S. hundreds of billions in annual property losses from hurricanes and other storms, declines in agricultural yields, and heat-wave-driven demand for electricity.
Temperatures in the U.S. have risen 1.5 degrees Fahrenheit (0.8 degrees Celsius) since the 1901–60 average. The past decade was also the hottest on record globally, the study said.
The White House said that taking action now would spur investment in technology with lower carbon emissions.
"Taking meaningful steps now sends a signal to the market that reduces long-run costs of meeting the target. Such action will reduce investments in high-carbon infrastructure that is expensive to replace and will spur development of new low- and zero-emissions technologies," a White House blog post on the report said.
Recent scientific reports have warned that crossing the 2 degree Celsius increase threshold could have disastrous effects, including a sea level rise of about 7 feet by the end of the century.
Extreme weather events are likely to become more frequent and intense as temperatures rise. Scientists have said that man-made climate change was a factor in at least half of the extreme weather events of 2012.
In May, 12 retired U.S. military generals released a report saying that climate change could affect national security, as resulting food shortages, drought and floods could be catalysts for conflict.
President Barack Obama, who pledged in his 2008 election campaign that he would combat climate change, has faced staunch opposition from lawmakers. Despite this, Obama managed to launch an initiative in June to cut carbon emissions from power plants 30 percent by 2030 from 2005 levels.
But experts told Al Jazeera in June that they were hoping to see cuts of 40 percent by 2030 based on 2012 levels — as using those levels as a baseline would lead to more significant cuts than those of 2005.
They cautioned that in order to cap global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius, emissions cuts of about 50 percent by 2030 based on 2012 levels would be required.
With wire services