White House issues critical warning of climate change’s economic cost

BY Anna Christiansen  July 29, 2014 at 12:16 PM EST
Severely damaged corn stalks due to a widespread drought are seen on a farm near Georgetown, Indiana on August 15, 2012. Photo by Saul Loeb/AFP/GettyImages

Severely damaged corn stalks due to a widespread drought are seen on a farm near Georgetown, Indiana, on August 15, 2012. The White House Council of Economic Advisers released a report Tuesday warning of the economic damage due to inaction on climate change. Photo by Saul Loeb/AFP/GettyImages

The White House Council of Economic Advisers is projecting a significant cost to society if climate change is not mitigated. Their analysis comes in a report released Tuesday, which foresees a 40 percent increase in environment related costs for every decade of inaction.

The council, Obama’s source of advice on economic policy, says that controlling greenhouse gas emissions is a form of “climate insurance.” Based on 16 studies which incorporate a range of economic models, they conclude that a rise of 3 degrees Celsius “could increase economic damages by approximately 0.9 percent of global output” — i.e. gross domestic product. To use 2014′s estimated GDP as an example, this amounts to $150 billion.

The findings bolster the EPA’s agenda to target coal-fired power plants, and comes hours before the first of a series of hearings on planet-warming pollution. In June, the agency proposed sweeping carbon emission cuts, with a goal of 30 percent by 2030. Additionally, the report supports the findings outlined in a May report by the National Climate Assessment, which was commissioned by the administration to detail the specific toll of climate change on various states in the country.

The chairman of the council, Jason Furman, told journalists in a conference call, “our report is very much a motivation for the types of actions the United States has taken in recent years as well as engaging with our global partners — because acting today will save us money, save us time and help advance a wide range of objectives.”