Furious storms, extreme heat and poisonous air will kill thousands and rob the economy of billions of dollars in the next century if the world does not act, according to a new report released by the Obama administration on Monday.
The report from the Environmental Protection Agency is designed to illustrate a worst-case scenario for the effects of global warming. If climate change goes unaddressed, the report predicts more than 2,000 storm-mangled bridges, 57,000 deaths from poor air quality and 12,000 fatalities from extreme temperature between now and the year 2100.
“It's up to them what kind of future they want to leave their kids."'
At the same time, however, the document contrasts this doomsday picture with a more prosperous one. If the world commits to scientifically recommended cuts in carbon emissions, the report argues that the U.S. will save 7.9 million acres from wildfire, and prevent more than $10 billion in damage to Midwestern farming counties and coastal communities alike.
“The motivation for this is to try to use science to tell people what the future looks like,” EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy told reporters on Monday. “It's up to them what kind of future they want to leave their kids."
Brian Deese, the Obama administration’s top adviser for environmental policy, presented the research as a new political weapon in the president’s fight to implement climate change policies. The main criticism of action has long been economic, a point that the new EPA report attacks with unusual focus.
This document “undergirds the president’s argument that we not only have a moral obligation to act now,” Deese said, according to The Hill, “but there are real economic dividends to acting.”
The report, titled "Climate Change in the United States: Benefits of Global Action," was produced by a partnership between the EPA, MIT and other scientific partners. It addressed impacts across six separate areas: health, infrastructure, electricity, water, agriculture, forestry and ecosystems. And its best-case scenario predictions assumed that Obama’s climate agenda passes in Congress in its entirety, but also that other countries were equally inspired to take aggressive action of their own.
According to the EPA, the conclusions are impeccable: reviewed by experts and rooted in established science. Even so, the data is unlikely to reverse opposition to some of the president’s most important environmental policies.
This week, for example, the Republican-controlled House is scheduled to vote on a bill that would disable the EPA’s Clean Power Plan. The bill would allow states to avoid crucial limits on carbon pollution if their governors—not scientists or even economists—decide the limits the would do any harm whatsoever to the state.
At the same time, both the House and Senate have written and passed out of committee EPA appropriations, proposing to slash more than $1 billion dollars from the agency’s budget. That would hobble its ability to do the work this new report argues is so important. The Clean Power Plan, in particular, would be “significantly undermined” by the proposed budget cuts, according to the Office of Management and Budget.
The new EPA report coincides with the second anniversary of the major environmental speech of Obama’s administration, a 2013 address at Georgetown University. There he announced that his administration would incorporate climate change considerations into everyday operations. He also promised tighter pollution controls on oil and gas fired utilities.
So far none of those controls are active.