Independent report identifies challenges facing U.S. businesses and policymakers; describes strategies to avoid significant, unequally spread economic disruptions
The American economy faces major risks from climate change, including damaging coastal storms, growing heat-related mortality, and declining labor productivity, according to an independent report released June 24 by business, education and political leaders.
The report, titled Risky Business, relies upon research also released today in the American Climate Prospectus: Economic Risks in the United States(ACP). Like a financial prospectus, the prospectus assesses the risks and opportunities for the United States associated with ongoing and future climate change.
The ACP, co-led by a Rutgers climate scientist along with colleagues from the University of California, Berkeley, and from the private consultancy Rhodium Group, is the first to provide a national set of estimates of costs to key sectors of the state economies.
“We looked at risks across the United States in more geographic detail than most previous risk modeling efforts have done before,” said Robert Kopp, associate professor of earth and planetary Sciences in the School of Arts and Sciences. “The costs of climate change in New Jersey differ from the costs in Florida, which differ from those in Colorado and Illinois.”
Kopp, who is also an associate director of the Rutgers Energy Institute and affiliated with the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy, worked with a team of scientists and economists to produce the ACP.
The new report also looks at a range of impacts, including property damage caused by coastal storms, changes in crop yields and labor productivity. The report projects that as the country suffers longer and hotter heat waves, many regions will see reduced crop yields, fewer hours that workers can spend outdoors and straining energy systems.
“We didn’t just look at a small number of likely scenarios for future climate change,” Kopp said. “We also wanted to know about costly events that may have only a 1 percent chance of happening.”
He and his collaborators examined not only the effects of average chances in temperature, precipitation and sea level, but also how changes in the averages affect the frequency of extreme heat waves, droughts and floods.
The Risky Business assessment was chaired by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg along with Bush administration Treasury secretary Hank Paulson and philanthropist Tom Steyer.
Kopp’s expertise in bringing together physical and economic models of climate change made him well-suited to help design the overall structure of the analysis. New sea-level rise projections developed for the analysis and published in the journal Earth's Future earlier this month provided estimates of local sea level changes along coastlines around the country and the world.
He and his collaborators also developed novel projections of how temperature changes will affect the frequency of hot and humid days – some so hot and humid that short periods of moderate outside activity could provoke heat stroke.
The Risky Business report is posted on the web site riskybusiness.org. The American Climate Prospectus is posted online at climateprospectus.rhg.org. The sea-level rise projections paper is available at http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/2014EF000239.
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