Dollars & Cents on Climate Change

It seems rare that a debate is truly settled. Baseball’s designated hitter, pro or con? Coke or Pepsi? While we all have opinions on these subjects, it appears the debate over them will outlive us all. For a long time it seemed the same could be said about the question of climate change. But as 97% of climate scientists have weighed in on the side of “Yep, its real” the question seems to be settled.

There will certainly be outliers regarding climate change (“It’s a plot to turn us all Socialists, don’t you know?) but most reasonable arguments point elsewhere. Hurricane Sandy brought pictures of historic devastation into our living rooms. A hurricane rushing through New York City isn’t a common Weather Channel feature. The financial toll of the cleanup effort to make New York and New Jersey whole again totaled $65 billion dollars.

What are the wider implications? “Risky Business” a joint and bi-partisan project tasked with examining the macro-economics of this question issued findings. Their report said, “In the U.S. Gulf Coast, Northeast and Southeast sea level rise and increased damage from storm surge are likely to lead to an additional $2 to $3.5 billion in property losses each year by 2030, with escalating costs in future decades.

As the air temperature increases laborers who generally work outside will be unable to work as many days a year or as many hours a day. The productivity of construction and highway workers will fall off by as much as 5%. Concurrently there will be heat related health crises suffered by these same workers. A 5% loss in productivity pales in comparison to heat stroke and death.

Is there anything positive to say about this? Only something very temporary. Initially, the growing season in the northern tier agricultural states, including the Dakotas, Minnesota, Iowa, and Illinois primarily will be longer. So while we are paying billions to repair damage and millions to heal heat-idled workers, the price of a loaf of bread will come down a quarter.

Wow. It Sounds Like it Couldn’t Get any Worse. Sure it could. We could live in the nation of Kiribati. It’s a chain of 33 islands connected, necklace-style, across the Central Pacific. The global rise in the ocean due to polar melt and increased oxygen in the water means that their country will be under water in 16 years.

Kim Hastings :