A new report from the Obama administration comparing two future scenarios—one with significant global action on climate change, and the other without—finds that the U.S. could save "tens of thousands of American lives, and hundreds of billions of dollars" annually by reducing global greenhouse gas emissions.
The analysis released Tuesday by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) quantifies "the vast economic, health, and environmental benefits that reducing global carbon pollution will have on the United States, reinforcing the need to act with a sense of urgency."
For example, Climate Change in the United States: Benefits of Global Action finds that lowering greenhouse gas emissions would have "a substantial effect on reducing the incidence of extreme temperature and precipitation events by the end of the century, as well as the impacts to humans and the environment associated with these extreme events." In fact, by 2100 such mitigation would help avoid 12,000 deaths annually associated with extreme temperatures in 49 U.S. cities, according to the EPA.
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The benefits of global action—of the sort to be discussed at the COP21 climate conference in December—are wide-ranging, the study declares. Tackling global warming could help the U.S. save up to $7 billion by 2100 in road maintenance costs; 230,000-360,000 acres of cold-water fish habitat across the country; and up to $34 billion in power system costs. And taking action on climate change would have "significant public health benefits in the U.S.," such as avoiding tens of thousands of premature deaths, that translate into savings of $930 billion by 2100.
While it focuses on health and economic benefits for the U.S., the EPA's peer-reviewed report underscores that "[s]lowing and preventing human-induced climate change requires global-scale action; the U.S. must do its part but cannot act alone."
Not acting, meanwhile, would have specific, negative regional impacts. According to the White House, "without action on climate change, California is projected to face increasing risk of drought, the Rocky Mountain region will see significant increases in wildfires, and the mid-Atlantic and Southeast are projected to experience infrastructure damage from extreme temperatures, heavy rainfall, sea level rise, and storm surge."
Such findings echo those that comprise an ever-growing body of research. This week, a new paper was published in Nature Climate Change, its authors writing: "The climate is changing: we have a new normal. The environment in which all weather events occur is not what it used to be. All storms, without exception, are different. Even if most of them look just like the ones we used to have, they are not the same."
And a new report in The Lancet declares that the negative impacts of human-caused global warming have put at risk some of the world's most impressive health gains over the last half century, while exacerbating infectious disease patterns, air pollution, food insecurity and malnutrition, involuntary migration, displacement, and violent conflict.
In response to the EPA's report, Sierra Club executive director Michael Brune noted: "This study amplifies facts that have been clear for a while: cutting carbon pollution and growing clean energy will prevent hundreds of thousands of premature deaths, save hundreds of billions of dollars in damages from sea-level rise and extreme weather, and save consumers billions on their electric bills."
Watch the EPA's video for an introduction to the analysis: