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Study: Inaction on Climate Change is Costliest Option for US

Researchers say inaction in responding to the challenges of climate change in the United States will cost billions of dollars. In a new report, researchers at the University of Maryland warn that the costs of global warming could place major strains on U.S. government budgets, personal income and job security. From Washington, VOA's Margaret Besheer has more.

The researchers warn that rising temperatures, decreased precipitation and rising sea levels will cost the United States billions of dollars each year unless immediate action is taken to curb the effects of global warming.

In a newly released report, University of Maryland researchers say all too often inaction is motivated by the perceived high cost of reducing destructive greenhouse gas emissions.

Matthias Ruth was the principle investigator of the study and heads the university's Center for Integrative Environmental Research. He says researchers are exploring strategies for curbing these emissions, but implementation of many of those strategies has been hindered because of their cost.

"Changing technologies, changing land use, changing consumption behaviors, all of those are quite costly," he said. "What has been forgotten in the debate though is the fact that not making the changes that are necessary is costly as well. We already experience the impact of climate change on agriculture, on forestry, on industry, on transportation, as well as the water and energy sectors of our economy."

The report warns that the impact of climate change will be felt across the United States in different ways. In the South and Southwest, for example, a decrease in rain will strain water resources for agriculture, industry and households. While the Midwest could suffer from more frequent and severe floods and drought, causing billions of dollars in damage to crops and property.

Ruth says such changes in precipitation and water levels can have a ripple effect that hurts not only the environment, but industry and trade as well. Here he is speaking about declining water levels in the Great Lakes of the Midwest.

"As water levels decline this can have serious impacts on shipping routes and the ability to deliver timely and reliably goods and services to and from the Midwest region," he added. "This means raw materials and energy sources and semi-finished products that have been transported there and then finished products and other semi-finished products transported to the rest of the country."

These secondary effects of climate change could lead to an increase in the cost of doing business. The researchers warn that could also lead to higher prices, job insecurity and a weaker economy. They say a national policy for easing greenhouse gas emissions is urgently needed to ease the economic repercussions of climate change.