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In Washington, D.C., both sides almost never agree. It also takes people not serving in elected or appointed office to tell the truth. People in politics don’t want to say the truth as they won’t get re-elected, and consumers of political information generally do not want to hear the truth.
Truth telling occurred this week, however, when a report came out titled, “Risky Business” (RiskyBusiness.org), detailing what will happen if we do not address climate change in the United States. The group that wrote the report backed it is an impressive group from the left and right. Co-Chaired by former Mayor Michael Bloomberg, former Secretary of the Treasury Hank Paulson (George W. Bush appointee) and the guy the right is throwing arrows at, Tom Steyer, it also has a board of pretty accomplished people, including former Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine; former Secretary of the Treasury Robert Rubin (a Clinton appointment); former Treasury secretary and economic adviser to Nixon and Reagan George Shultz; former HHS Secretary Donna Shalala (Clinton) among others. This is not exactly a radical group of people.
The report takes climate change and puts an economic price on it. It says that by the year 2100, we will have major damage to the coasts as well as inland. 2100 is not that far away. A good number of people who are toddlers now will live to see 2100. They will be 90 years old with children and grandchildren of their own when some of the more disastrous effects of climate change happen.
The “Risky Business Report” is the first report that takes each area of the United States and outlines exactly what is going to happen to it. Most of us have heard reports about the coastlines losing property due to the rising sea. Some are planning ahead, not purchasing property on the coastline and moving more inland. That part of the Risky Business report is not going to move Congress or others to do much about climate change. However, digging a bit deeper into the report there is some shocking information.
The report outlines all areas of the United States, but just focusing on three, we have scary information. This will most likely all happen in our lifetimes (2020-2039):
The Great Plains States using Kansas as an example:
Average summer temperature: 78.46°F to 80.14°F
Number of days over 95°F: 27 to 40
Change in crop yields: -6.84 percent to 4.43 percent
Change in labor productivity: -0.68 percent to 0.15 percent
Change in electricity demand: 0.41 percent to 4.94 percent
Change in energy expenditures: -0.23 percent to 9.39 percent
Change in mortality: -4.35 to 8.11 deaths per 100,000 people.
The Midwest using Iowa as an example:
Average summer temperature: 73.3°F to 75.64°F
Number of days over 95°F: 7 to 17
Change in crop yields: -10.52 percent to 6.27 percent
Change in labor productivity: -0.52 percent to 0.14 percent
Change in electricity demand: 0.42 percent to 3.52 percent
Change in energy expenditures: -1.51 percent to 5.05 percent
Change in mortality: -8.64 to 6.95 deaths per 100,000 people.
The South using Louisiana as an example:
Average summer temperature: 83.11°F to 84.52°F
Number of days over 95°F: 30 to 52
Change in crop yields: -14.58 percent to 3.8 percent
Change in labor productivity: -0.81 percent to -0.06 percent
Change in electricity demand: 0.47 percent to 4.08 percent
Change in energy expenditures: -1.11 percent to 8.68 percent
Change in mortality: 0.53 to 9.97 deaths per 100,000 people.
Average annual coastal storm damage: $2,369.79 to $2,430.41 million USD (10.07 percent to 12.89 percent change from today).
The “Risky Business” authors are realists and know that all change will not come from the government. They have a three-pronged strategy. The first is to change everyday business practices to become more resilient and to work with local governments to put in the investments that will bring lasting change. The second is the not hiding our heads in the sand and incorporating investments into the balance sheet for investors. That would be realistic and welcomed by people with capital. The third recommendation is to work in the public sector. We all know how hard that can be but what is clear is the generation now in college is concerned about the changes in climate and does not take a partisan view of this. Change might really happen with the new generation gaining power.
The report quotes President Regan’s George Shultz in and interview he did with Scientific American: “Rather than go and confront the people who were doubting it and have a big argument with them, we’d say to them: Look, there must be, in the back of your mind, at least a little doubt. You might be wrong, so let’s all get together on an insurance policy.”
What a novel idea, to bring all together and make sure even the doubters have a stake in this. It can make a difference and also make us safer and more secure as a country in the not to distant future.
Media wishing to interview Ellen Ratner, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.