Virtually all climate scientists agree that human activity is causing climate change to drastically increase. This increase in global temperature is increasing the intensity and frequency of super storms like Irma and Harvey.
Along with these extreme weather events, climate change related diseases have also increased. Changes in climate can affect transmission of vector-borne infectious diseases, like malaria, and decreased air quality can lead to an increase in respiratory illnesses. These effects of fossil fuel emissions have created billions of dollars worth of damage.
According to the Universal Ecological Fund’s recent report, “The Economic Case for Climate Action in the United States”, these damages have cost the United States alone $240 billion dollars. This figure does not include the $300 billion in damages from the last three hurricanes and 76 wildfires that have occurred in the past few months.
The report only quantified climate change health issues and extreme weather, and did not include economic impacts on land, ecosystems, water sources, or economic losses from health effects from increased heat waves. “Our report is an underestimate of the real costs of continued use of fossil fuels,” said Sir Robert Watson, coauthor of the report.
These costs continue to increase each year. “According to data provided by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the number of extreme weather events causing at least $1 billion in economic losses has increased more than 400 percent since the 1980s.” Climate change is continuing to threaten U.S. economic growth.
Why exactly is there an increase in climate change related illnesses and storm intensity?
As we burn fossil fuels for transportation, residential, and industrial use, we increase the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. The associated increase in toxins and particulates released during fossil fuel combustion degrades air quality and decreases our quality of health.
The dramatic increase of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere has warmed the earth and increased global temperatures by 1.8 degrees fahrenheit. This warmer weather and warmer bodies of water feed tropical storms and increase their intensity. The global temperature is projected to increase by about 3.6 degrees fahrenheit by 2050.
What can we do?
A major threat to increasing renewable energy sources is the Trump administration and the new head of the EPA, Scott Pruitt, a known climate change denier. President Trump removed the United States from the Paris Agreement, claiming that, “it put our country, the United States of America, which we all love, at a very very big economic disadvantage.” Trump said this despite the overwhelming evidence that renewable energy creates quality jobs and that climate change is totaling billions in damage for our country.
We need to accelerate the transition away from fossil fuels to renewable energy. By replacing fossil fuels with renewable energy sources, the U.S. can reduce its climate impact costs by about 1.1 trillion dollars by 2050.