A new report released last week by the House Committee on Natural Resources and Energy Minority staff confirmed what scientists have been saying for a decade. Climate change is here; it is caused mostly by global warming; and it is the major reason for extreme weather events, drought, and wildfires we have been experiencing in the United States and globally.
This is the third of three articles on this Report.
What does this cost us?
It is difficult to calculate the total cost, but it is a lot of money. Losses from this summer’s wildfires are over $1 billion. The cost of floods, tornados and other storms is well over $1 billion. The drought is not only hurting farmers who lost their crops, and ranchers who had to sell their herds, but it will cost American consumers for the next year or more.
The drought has killed the corn crop, so everything made from corn will see price increases. Milk, meat, produce are all more expensive, and the high prices have not even peaked. Ethanol is made from corn, so gas prices will rise.
These events also divert taxpayer dollars away from other programs like education and infrastructure. They cost insurance companies, and those costs are passed on to everyone who has insurance through higher premiums. They cost already strapped state and local governments. And there is a human toll in loss of life and injury that no price tag can be placed on.
Here are some excerpts from the Report on the subject:
“The powerful “derecho” storm system in early July left a trail of death, destruction and downed power lines from Illinois to Virginia, killing at least 23 people, leaving over 3.7 million people without power during extreme heat, and causing hundreds of millions of dollars in damages.
In late June, Tropical Storm Debby slowly traversed Florida, dropping over a foot of rain, causing the state to have its wettest June on record. At least 7 people died, and over 7,500 homes and businesses across the state were either flooded or had significant infrastructure damage.
At the end of August, Hurricane Isaac became the first hurricane to make landfall along the Gulf Coast since 2008. The Category 1 storm caused multiple days of torrential rainfall and a storm surge up to 15 feet in places. Louisiana was the hardest hit, but Mississippi, Alabama and Florida all suffered impacts.
The storm caused at least seven deaths and total economic losses are expected to be in the billions of dollars. 45 Rainfall from Hurricane Isaac contributed to Louisiana and Mississippi experiencing their second wettest August on record and to Florida experiencing its wettest summer ever.
Heat and low water are also causing tens of thousands of fish to die in Midwestern rivers and lakes. So many fish died in one Illinois lake that the carcasses clogged an intake screen near a power plant, lowering water levels to the point that the station had to shut down one of its generators.
The declines in ice cover follow increases in temperatures… Satellite photos show that only about 5% of the Great Lakes surface froze this winter, compared to the average 40% that is covered by ice in a typical winter”
This ice melt will affect the fishing industry and further influence weather patterns. The unbelievable melting of Arctic ice will raise sea levels, and if not stopped, will flood coastal cities.
What can be done?
Global warming is caused by greenhouse gasses from burning fossil fuels that trap heat in the atmosphere. Reducing greenhouse gas pollution will slow global warming. We are near the tipping point, however.
We need to drastically reduce greenhouse gasses. This means switching to green energy like solar and wind. An interim step will be to switch from coal and gasoline as a fuel to wind, solar, and natural gas, which gives off less greenhouse gas pollution. Already, because of low prices for natural gas, utilities are converting from coal to gas. This has already reduced the carbon pollution in the U.S.
This switch to green energy will not happen with the current make-up in Congress, however. Republicans, and some Democrats, are climate change deniers and they are in the pocket of gas, oil, and coal companies. They are out to kill renewable energy, and they want to end all clean air laws.
At some point, Americans will wake up. Let’s hope it will not be too late.
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