Blog from Jane Marsh: How Much Does Climate Change Cost the Economy?

Over the past century, planet Earth has experienced various changes to its atmosphere’s composition and weather patterns. The growing endangered species list and frequency of natural disasters signify the global ecosystem’s price for our actions.

Our environmental education and media exposure focus on ecological destruction. Though this is a major cause of rising global temperatures, we must also evaluate the economic impact. Increasing natural disaster rates, human health issues and infrastructure degradation have adverse effects on the American economy.

Natural Disasters

The intensity and frequency of natural disasters increased over the past century. Rising global temperatures cause greater rates of evaporation. As moisture leaves Earth’s surface, the risk of forest fires increases.

California’s drought periods are becoming longer and more destructive. In recent years, the state experienced record-breaking fires due to the dry climate. The most recent wildfires took a $10 billion toll on the economy and destroyed thousands of homes.

Altered temperatures and atmospheric humidity also increase the frequency of hurricanes. In 2020, the U.S. experienced a historic hurricane season consisting of 12 inland and 30 named storms. They caused severe flooding, power outages, storm surges and wind, all affecting the health and safety of local communities.

Hurricanes require costly cleanup efforts. The South gained over $85 million in relief funds for a single storm. As hurricanes occur more frequently and increase in intensity, the government must provide more money for aid each year. This could increase financial debt over time.

Human Health

The changing climate also poses adverse human health effects, increasing insurance costs and more. As hurricanes consume Southern regions, storm surges and rain overwhelm water supplies and municipal wells. An increase in incoming water makes processing and filtration impossible.

Sewage, organic matter and runoff can contaminate drinking water sources during floods. This may leave community members without access to clean water for days, increasing the rate of dehydration. Towns must install costly water purification systems to sustain basic human needs after hurricanes, consuming much of a community’s budget.

Rising global temperatures overflood hospitals with patients during heatwaves. Each year, more individuals experience heatstroke from increased summer temperatures. The condition occurs when the body overheats, sweating mechanisms fail and cooling becomes impossible. As heat stroke case numbers increase, hospitals must source more funds to maintain their intake levels.

Decreased air quality also places extensive financial stress on hospitals. An increase in forest fires, air pollution, smoke, dust and pollen cause breathing troubles in children. Air pollution can boost the severity and frequency of asthma attacks, placing more kids in the hospital.

Infrastructure

Climate change has a major impact on the real estate industry in coastal regions. As global temperatures increase, arctic ice caps melt, causing rising sea levels. Over time, seawalls erode, beaches disappear and beachfront homes submerge underwater.

New England coastal real estate already experienced a $403 million loss in property value. We can expect to see this pattern repeated in other regions around the nation. As we experienced in 2008, when the real estate market crashes, the entire economy suffers.

Rising sea levels may open up a world of opportunities for summer sports, but winter activities will experience financial hardships. Scientists project that ski resorts will have 50% shorter seasons by 2050. The diminishing season already cost mountains $1 billion in revenue.

Recreational activities are essential to our enjoyment and well-being, but our food sources may hold a greater value. Heavy rain periods followed by drought negatively affect the agricultural industry. Rising temperatures also leave farmers with a limited growing season to sustain their business.

A changing climate forces many species to migrate. Pests and weeds may travel into agricultural regions, destroying crops and soil composition. As farmers face increased production obstacles, our food supply becomes endangered.

The Right Track

Climate scientists and innovators generate new green technology annually, helping society reduce its environmentally degrading actions. President Biden has America on the right track to environmental conservation by rejoining the Paris Agreement, and together we can reduce the effects of climate change. When we adopt energy-efficient technology and sustainable lifestyles, a greener world is possible.

 

About the author: Jane works as an environmental and energy writer. She is also the founder and editor-in-chief of Environment.co

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