The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has released one of the most comprehensive analyses to date on the economic, health and environmental benefits to the United States of global climate action. The peer-reviewed report, Climate Change in the United States: Benefits of Global Action, examines how future impacts and damages of climate change across a number of sectors in the United States can be avoided or reduced with global action. The report compares two future scenarios: a future with significant global action on climate change, where global warming has been limited to 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit), and a future with no action on climate change (where global temperatures rise 9 degrees Fahrenheit). The report then quantifies the differences in health, infrastructure and ecosystem impacts under the two scenarios, producing estimates of the costs of inaction and the benefits of reducing global GHG emissions.
“Will the United States benefit from climate action? Absolutely. This report shows us how costly inaction will be to Americans’ health, our environment and our society. But more importantly, it helps us understand the magnitude of benefits to a number of sectors of the U.S. with global climate action,” said EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy. “We can save tens of thousands of American lives, and hundreds of billions of dollars, annually in the United States by the end of this century, but the sooner we act, the better off America and future generations of Americans will be.”
The report examines how the impacts and damages of climate change across a number of sectors in the United States can be avoided with global action. The findings include:
• Global action on climate change reduces the frequency of extreme weather events and associated impacts. For example, by 2100 global action on climate change is projected to avoid an estimated 12,000 deaths annually associated with extreme temperatures in 49 U.S. cities, compared to a future with no reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. This is more than a 90 percent reduction from what we would expect with no action.
• Global action now leads to greater benefits over time. The decisions we make today will have long-term effects, and future generations will either benefit from, or be burdened by, our current actions. Compared to a future with unchecked climate change, climate action is projected to avoid approximately 13,000 deaths in 2050 and 57,000 deaths annually in 2100 from poor air quality. Delaying action on emissions reductions will likely reduce these and other benefits.
• Global action on climate change avoids costly damages in the United States. For nearly all of the 20 sectors studied, global action on climate change significantly reduces the economic damages of climate change. For example, without climate action, we estimated up to $10 billion in increased road maintenance costs each year by the end of the century. With action, we can avoid up to $7 billion of these damages.
• Climate change impacts are not equally distributed. Some regions of the United States are more vulnerable than others and will bear greater impacts. For example, without action on climate change, California is projected to face increasing risk of drought, the Rocky Mountain region will see significant increases in wildfires, and the mid-Atlantic and Southeast are projected to experience infrastructure damage from extreme temperatures, heavy rainfall, sea level rise, and storm surge.
• Adaptation can reduce damages and costs. For some sectors, adaptation can substantially reduce the impacts of climate change. For example, in a future without greenhouse gas reductions, estimated damages from sea-level rise and storm surge to coastal property in the lower 48 states are $5.0 trillion dollars through 2100. With adaptation along the coast, the estimated damages and adaptation costs are reduced to $810 billion.
The report is a product of the Climate Change Impacts and Risks Analysis (CIRA) project, led by EPA in collaboration with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the Pacific Northwest National Lab, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and other partners. The CIRA project is one of the first efforts to quantify the benefits of global action on climate change across a large number of U.S. sectors using a common analytic framework and consistent underlying data inputs. The project spans 20 U.S. sectors related to health, infrastructure, electricity, water resources, agriculture and forestry, and ecosystems.
Explore the report at http://www2.epa.gov/cira