A global agreement to curb greenhouse gas emissions would prevent nearly 70,000 premature American deaths annually by the end of the century while sparing the country hundreds of billions of dollars’ worth of economic losses, according the latest EPA report. Slowing the carbon build-up in the atmosphere would also prevent severe damage to a wide range of critical ecosystems, from Hawaiian coral reefs that support tourism to shellfish beds off the East Coast.
The report “Climate Change in the United States: Benefits of Global Action,” a five-year, peer-reviewed analysis, compared what would likely happen in a business-as-usual world, in which carbon-dioxide levels in the atmosphere soar to more than 800 parts per million by the year 2100, compared to levels of about 462 parts per million expected if aggressive action is taken over the coming decades to limit greenhouse-gas pollution.
The study concluded that if proper measures were taken to combat climate change, local governments could avoid tens of billions of dollars in damage from floods and other severe-weather events, while farmers could save up to $11 billion a year in damage to crops from a combination of drought, flooding and destructive storms. Tens of millions of acres of forests could be preserved because of fewer wildfires, the report said.
The report’s authors acknowledged that they did not attempt to factor in all of the costs related to cutting greenhouses gases, or consider potential impacts overseas. Moreover, the study does not specify a strategy for keeping global temperatures from rising by more than 2°C. Diplomats from 197 countries will meet in Paris in December to try to negotiate a treaty on reducing carbon emissions.
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