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Report Sharply at Odds With Trump's Views on Cost of Climate Change


President Donald Trump speaks to members of the media before boarding Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, Nov. 26, 2018, for a short trip to Andrews Air Force Base, Maryland, and then on to Mississippi for rallies.

By 2090, days when it is too hot or too smoggy to work will cost the U.S. economy up to $155 billion each year in lost productivity.

That's one economic impact cited in the National Climate Assessment released Friday by 13 U.S. federal agencies.

"Without substantial and sustained global mitigation and regional adaptation efforts, climate change is expected to cause growing losses to American infrastructure and property and impede the rate of economic growth over this century," the report said.

"I don't believe it," President Donald Trump responded when asked about the report Monday.

Trump has for many years rejected the scientific consensus that human activities are the main drivers of climate change. Since his first day in office, he has worked to undo regulations that aim to cut the greenhouse gas emissions that are warming the planet. The focus has been on boosting the economy.

FILE - The coal-fired Plant Scherer, one of the nation's top carbon dioxide emitters, stands in the distance in Juliette, Ga., June 3, 2017. The Trump administration intends to roll back the centerpiece of former President Barack Obama’s efforts to slow the build up of greenhouse gases.
FILE - The coal-fired Plant Scherer, one of the nation's top carbon dioxide emitters, stands in the distance in Juliette, Ga., June 3, 2017. The Trump administration intends to roll back the centerpiece of former President Barack Obama’s efforts to slow the build up of greenhouse gases.

According to the government's new report, failing to cut those emissions ultimately will take a significant toll on economic output.

Since the last congressionally mandated report was issued four years ago, scientists have developed a more granular understanding of how climate change will affect particular regions of the United States, and they better understand "how some of the damage caused by climate-related events is uniquely attributable to climate change, as opposed to what would happen normally," said Andrew Light, distinguished senior fellow at the World Resources Institute and co-author of the chapter on mitigation.

The report tallied up $118 billion per year in damage to coastal property by the end of the century, along with a $20 billion hit to roads and $1 billion to bridges.

It also says deaths from extreme temperatures will cause $141 billion in losses per year. Increases in rates of one disease — West Nile Virus — will cost $3 billion per year.

The Trump administration dismissed the report as alarmist.

"The report is largely based on the most extreme scenario, which contradicts long-established trends" said White House spokeswoman Lindsay Walters. It assumes that, "despite strong economic growth that would increase greenhouse gas emissions, there would be limited technology and innovation."

FILE - The City Hall of Barcelona is illuminated in green in support of the Paris climate accord aiming to meet greenhouse gas emission targets, in Barcelona, Spain, June 2, 2017.
FILE - The City Hall of Barcelona is illuminated in green in support of the Paris climate accord aiming to meet greenhouse gas emission targets, in Barcelona, Spain, June 2, 2017.

In announcing his intention to pull out of the Paris climate agreement, Trump cited a study funded in part by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce that said the United States would lose 2.7 million jobs and nearly $3 trillion of gross domestic product by 2040.

Critics questioned those figures, especially since, as the report itself notes, it does not take into account benefits of reduced emissions.

Others see significant opportunities in cutting greenhouse gases.

Nearly 500 companies have pledged to reduce their emissions to meet their portion of the Paris climate agreement.

"These guys are not doing it for the good of the planet," said Wesleyan University economist Gary Yohe. "It's because the bottom line says this is a good idea."

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    Steve Baragona

    Steve Baragona is an award-winning multimedia journalist covering science, environment and health.

    He spent eight years in molecular biology and infectious disease research before deciding that writing about science was more fun than doing it. He graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a master’s degree in journalism in 2002.

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