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Global Warming Takes Toll on US Economy, Not Just Environment

Jun 24, 2014 03:15 PM EDT

The US economy may not be able to afford global warming if it continues to go unchecked, according to a major new bipartisan report released Tuesday.

Among the economic costs climate change is expected to enact on the United States over the next 25 years are: $35 million in annual property losses from hurricanes and other coastal storms, $12 billion a year as a result of heat wave-driven demand for electricity, and tens of billions of dollars from the corn and wheat industry due to a 14 percent drop in crop yields.

And that's just the beginning. The price tag could soar to hundreds of billions by 2100.

"I say we should take out an insurance policy," George P. Shultz, former Treasury secretary under Presidents Richard M. Nixon and Ronald Reagan, quipped to The New York Times.

The analysis, wittily entitled "Risky Business," projects climate impacts at scales as small as individual counties based on data from past heat waves. It "is the most detailed ever of the potential economic effects of climate change on the US," climatologist Michael Oppenheimer of Princeton University said, according to Reuters.

The Earth is already feeling climate change's effects with increasing heat waves, rising sea levels, drought, flooding and tropical storms. And by 2050, experts predict $66 billion to $106 billion worth of coastal property will likely be below sea level and rising oceans will cost $42 billion to $108 billion along the Eastern Seaboard and Gulf of Mexico.

"I actually do believe that we're at a tipping point with the planet," financier Henry M. Paulson Jr. told The Times. "A lot of things are going to happen that none of us are going to like to see."

Paulson, along with Thomas F. Steyer and Michael R. Bloomberg, the former mayor of New York, who are strong advocates of action on global warming, are largely funding the campaign.

Although, it is unclear as to whether companies or investors will heed the report's warnings.

"The largest companies are starting to realize climate change is a financial issue," said Mindy S. Lubber, who was not involved in the report. "Are they radically changing yet? No. But we're making some progress, slowly."

The report follows President Barack Obama's plan to take direct action against global warming, including requiring power plants to cut carbon dioxide emissions to 30 percent below 2005 levels by 2030.

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