California's Central Valley remains in a major drought.
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Cost of delaying climate action? $150 billion a year

Updated

Ignoring climate change is going to cost you, a new White House report revealed Tuesday.

As President Barack Obama pushes his plan to curb carbon emissions by 30% over the next 16 years and Republicans routinely deny that climate change exists at all, the White House Council of Economic Advisers is quantifying exactly how costly delaying the president’s proposals could be.

Ignoring climate change action could cost the country 0.9% of its GDP annually — for 2014, that’s $150 billion — once the earth’s temperature rises three degrees above pre-industrial levels. Those costs will come from factors including decreased agricultural production, coastal flooding and erosion and the costs associated with extreme weather events like hurricanes.

Three degrees above pre-industrial levels may not seem like much, but according to studies, it’s rising above this level that will bring on some of the direst effects of climate change, including a blow to global food production. The earth’s temperature has already warmed 0.8 degrees above pre-industrial levels, the oceans are rising, weather patterns are changing, and the food industry is already feeling the effects.

If the country waits to act, while still keeping the Earth’s temperature from rising above that three-degree threshold, it’ll be pricier to implement CO2 cutting efforts. The cost of reigning in climate change and mitigating its effects will increase by 40% each decade the country doesn’t act, according to the report.

“In practice, delay could result in both types of costs,” the report notes. 

The analysis comes ahead of hearings planned for this week on the new Environmental Protection Agency regulations; the hearings are expected to be heated as the regulations are likely to eventually lead to the shutdown of hundreds of power plants. 

Republicans have complained that the regulations are job killers and too costly for businesses. As such, they have pushed to delay or block them.

“The longer that action is postponed, the greater will be the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere and the greater is the risk,” the report concludes. “Just as businesses and individuals guard against severe financial risks by purchasing various forms of insurance, policymakers can take actions now that reduce the chances of triggering the most severe climate events.”

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Cost of delaying climate action? $150 billion a year

Updated