Climate change has already cost the government $350 billion–here’s how much it will cost you…
10:36 AM ET 10/8/18 | MarketWatch
Climate change has already cost the government $350 billion–here’s how much it will cost you…
Our planet is warming, putting at risk not only our physical well-being, but our wallets.
The 2018 Nobel Prize for Economics Science was awarded to William Nordhaus and Paul Romer (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/us-pair-win-nobel-economics-prize-for-work-on-climate-and-economy-2018-10-08), two American economists whose work emphasizes the importance of sustainable economic growth and an economic system that takes climate change into account.
The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences said the two economists “have designed methods for addressing some of our time’s most basic and pressing questions about how we create long-term sustained and sustainable economic growth.”
Climate change has cost U.S. taxpayers more than $350 billion over the past decade, according to a report released last year from nonpartisan federal watchdog the Government Accountability Office (https://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-17-720). By 2050, that figure will be $35 billion per year. Costs include clean up and disaster assistance from flooding and storms, which are set to increase under rising temperatures.
Those estimates come as the planet experienced its hottest year on record in 2016, in which temperatures were 1.78 degrees Fahrenheit (https://www.nasa.gov/press-release/nasa-noaa-data-show-2016-warmest-year-on-record-globally) warmer than the mid-century mean. Scientists say global temperatures may rise by 7 degrees Fahrenheit before the end of the 21st century (http://www.ibtimes.com/temperature-earth-rise-7-degrees-2100-climate-sensitivity-may-be-far-higher-thought-1523752). As climate change escalates, cities are building sea walls, seeking new water sources for drought-stricken land, and storm-proofing their infrastructure (http://www.businessinsider.com/new-york-city-preparing-storms-2016-10) in preparation.
But while impending environmental impact of rising temperatures may be the most tangible, the often-overlooked effects on our pocketbooks may be just as worrisome, according to David Stookey, author of the book “Climate-Proof Your Personal Finances (https://www.amazon.com/Climate-Proof-Your-Personal-Finances-safeguard/dp/099739580X)” published the Savvy Families Institute, an organization he heads that is based in Rhode Island.
“The physical problems are going to affect relatively few people in America — a much broader number are going to experience these problems financially,” he said. “The physical risks are nothing compared with the financial risks.” For this generation (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/the-10-best-excuses-for-ignoring-climate-change-killing-carbon-regulations-2015-11-06), at least.
A number of people, including President Donald Trump, challenge the concept of climate change and whether it is caused by human activity, but more than 90% of scientists agree (http://www.forbes.com/sites/uhenergy/2016/12/14/fact-checking-the-97-consensus-on-anthropogenic-climate-change/#720101ab7c6c) it is real and human-caused.
The speed and degree to which climate change will affect us — and what we will do (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/the-united-states-of-climate-deniers-captured-in-one-map-2016-05-04) to slow it — is not fully known, but we can begin taking measures now to financially prepare.
1. Re-evaluate your budget
Climate change will send food, energy, and water costs soaring, and savvy consumers should adjust their home budgets accordingly, according to the Brookings Institution (https://www.brookings.edu/blog/planetpolicy/2014/09/19/paying-the-cost-of-climate-change/), a research think tank in Washington, D.C. Incomes are expected to shrink (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/how-much-americans-incomes-could-shrink-because-of-global-warming-2015-10-23) by 36% by 2100 due to climate change, and millennials will bear the brunt of the economic effects.
Rising temperatures, the erosion of topsoil in farming states, and erratic weather events are expected to drive food costs up (https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2014/mar/31/climate-change-food-supply-un) between 3% and 84% by 2050. Consider cutting back on resource-intensive food like beef and other animal products as well as buying produce from local farms to keep costs down.
Impending water shortages can affect (https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2012/nov/30/climate-change-water) the costs of natural gas and even sustainable energy in coming years. Consumers should weatherize their home to decrease how much heat leaves in the winter and how much heat comes in during the summer and switch to renewable energy sources like wind, says Stookey. Face these potential financial troubles head on by making a budget that accounts for a percentage rise in costs each year due to climate change — Stookey’s website offers a sample template (http://savvyfamilies.org/climateproof-budgetbookmark/) for the average family home.
A 21-year-old college student graduating in 2015 is expected to lose $126,000 in lifetime income due to climate change and the generation as a whole is expected to lose $8.8 trillion in lifetime income, a study from environmental advocacy organization NextGen Climate found. This decrease is due to a number of climate change-related economic burdens including stagnant wages and lack of well-paying jobs and potential recession.
2. Straighten out your insurance
As climate change transforms our environment, it will raise a number of new issues to take into account when choosing health insurance.
A large increase in pollen caused by warming planet could mean higher health care costs for people with allergies and asthma. Ragweed pollen season is now a month longer than it was in 1995 and sensitivity to ragweed expanded by 15% in the past four years, according to Stookey’s research. Not all insurance plans cover allergy tests and treatment (http://www.choosingwisely.org/patient-resources/allergy-tests/). Though rarely fatal, the costs of these medical conditions add up: allergy sufferers made more than 17 million doctors visits a year and asthma currently costs $3,300 per person in medical expenses annually, according to Stanford Medicine (http://med.stanford.edu/allergyandasthma/clinical-care/learn-about-allergies.html). New weather patterns could result in more pathogens in city water, Stookey said, putting more people at risk for disease.
Consumers may also want to opt for a health plan with generous mental health benefits, as the American Psychological Association predicts that climate disruption will cause a steady increase in mental health issues, including depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, suicide, and addiction.
3. Pick a climate-safe job
Changing weather will have major effects on a number of industries: Agriculture will be damaged by drought and high temperatures and commercial fishing will be negatively impacted (http://www.cnbc.com/2014/10/22/7-industries-at-greatest-risk-from-climate-change.html) by rising sea levels. (Although the latest GAO report (https://www.gao.gov/assets/690/687466.pdf)notes that climate change could actually improve crop yields in the northern U.S.) While warming may shrink some industries, others will remain stable or even experience a boost. College students and soon-to-be graduates may want to choose a career path that is climate-proof.
Construction work is expected to take on hundreds of thousands of workers as cities build sea walls and climate-proof housing, like Miami’s plans to prevent flooding (http://www.npr.org/2016/05/10/476071206/as-waters-rise-miami-beach-builds-higher-streets-and-political-willpower) in the city and New York City’s post Hurricane Sandy construction plans (http://www.nytimes.com/2016/01/19/nyregion/new-york-city-to-get-176-million-from-us-for-storm-protections.html), which a recent study in the magazine Nature (https://www.theguardian.com/environment/climate-consensus-97-per-cent/2015/jun/22/new-study-links-global-warming-to-hurricane-sandy-and-other-extreme-weather-events) said was made worse by climate change. For similar reasons, the real estate and moving industry is expected to see more opportunity as people seek to relocate to more climate-safe cities — even Trump recognized climate change in his plans to build a sea wall around an Ireland golf course (http://www.politico.com/story/2016/05/donald-trump-climate-change-golf-course-223436). Renewable energy resources like solar and wind are expected to grow over time, especially if government subsidies increase.
4. Warming-proof your investments
While the economy is expected to suffer overall as a result of climate change, according to a 2015 study from Nature, a U.K.-based academic journal (http://arstechnica.com/science/2015/11/climate-change-could-have-a-significant-impact-on-our-economy/), some industries will stand to benefit from a warming climate. Coffee investors are already seeing benefits (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/climate-change-is-paying-big-dividends-for-coffee-investors-2016-10-19), for example, and Stookey recommends in his book purchasing mutual funds, exchange-traded funds and hedge funds that invest in water companies. Clean energy, solar energy, and nuclear energy are also smart investments in a warming planet, according to Stookey.
5. Climate-proof your home
Most standard home insurance policies don’t cover flood damage (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/how-to-storm-proof-your-home-insurance-2015-10-01), according to the Insurance Information Institute, a nonprofit funded by the industry. The home is the biggest investment for many people, and consumers should take extra care to protect it from climate change — particularly if they live in a flood zone. Check resources from Federal Emergency Management Agency (https://msc.fema.gov/portal) (FEMA) online to see if your home is in a flood zone and protect it accordingly. Consumers can start by buying flood insurance and improving drainage systems in their home. Homes can be built on stilts or surrounded by a waterproof fence. Some homes are being built with the ability to float, so they are safe when the tide rises, like in some parts of New Orleans (http://www.nbcnews.com/id/33199555/ns/us_news-life/t/floating-house-can-ride-new-orleans-floods/) affected by Hurricane Katrina.
6. Consider making a move
Many of these problems can be avoided for the most part by moving to a less vulnerable or more climate-prepared city. There is no one city that is the most climate change-proof, Stookey said, because they vary largely based on individual needs. His website hosts a tool that grades towns based on various climate-related factors (http://savvyfamilies.org/request-where-to-live-indicators-report/), including water access, flooding and other natural disaster risk, and economic safety nets for climate change issues. Another tool from software developer Bert Sperling ranks cities (http://www.bestplaces.net/docs/studies/safest_places_from_natural_disasters.aspx) in order of safety from natural disasters.
The most important thing, Stookey said, is to adapt. “The effects of global warming we feel are going to be highly local — one town could be completely immune and its next door neighbor will be in serious trouble,” he said. “People need to start planning for the risks.”
This story was updated on Oct. 8, 2018.
-Kari Paul; 415-439-6400; AskNewswires@dowjones.com
October 08, 2018 10:36 ET (14:36 GMT)
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