(Bloomberg) — Labor productivity would dwindle as workers
wilt in the heat. Summers in Illinois would feel like a
Louisiana swamp. Epic downpours and surging seas of the future
would leave $5 trillion in losses. And worsening air quality
would result in 57,000 premature deaths in 2100.
As President Barack Obama tries to unite the nation behind
his efforts to combat climate change, the White House on Monday
released a detailed projection for a dystopian future if
greenhouse-gas emissions remain unchecked. The most catastrophic
impact, the administration argued, can be avoided if leaders
mandate the carbon cuts necessary to keep global warming to 2
degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit).
“We have a choice on how we move forward, and what our
future will look like,” Environmental Protection Agency
Administrator Gina McCarthy said at a White House briefing.
“Action now is necessary to address that trajectory on a long-term basis.”
Issued two years after Obama said fighting climate change
would be a top priority of his second term, the White House
report pulls from federal data to show climate change impacts
and risks. Officials said it shows Obama’s proposals to curb
greenhouse gases from trucks, power plants, landfills and oil
wells will all provide health and economic payoffs.
The administration is planning this week to highlight risks
that climate change poses to the U.S. as negotiators press ahead
with talks to reach a global accord by the end of this year in
Paris to fight climate change. The White House is scheduled to
hold a conference on climate change and health Tuesday, and
curbing emissions is a key part of a summit between U.S. and
Obama’s aides also are fighting off efforts by Republican
lawmakers to halt any and all regulations to rein in emissions.
This week, Congress is set to vote on measures that would block
the EPA’s plan to curb carbon gases spewed from power plants,
and a measure that would slash the EPA’s funding and also halt
White House officials signaled Obama would veto those
measures, and said they’re confident the administration doesn’t
need a vote from Congress on any global climate accord.
“We feel comfortable and confident that we have the
authority to get it done,” Brian Deese, a White House climate
adviser, said of the talks overseen by the United Nations.
A global accord is necessary because if the U.S. cuts its
carbon pollution, it could be replaced by increases from China
or India. Without steps to curb emissions, the consequences to
the U.S. could be dire. Seal-level rise and storm surges could
cause $5 trillion in damage to coastal property over the next 85
years, the study said. Increased road maintenance costs would be
$7 billion a year by 2100.
California faces increasing risk of drought, while trout
and salmon runs would face destruction.
White House officials sought to frame the report, which
drew from EPA data and was led by EPA’s atmospheric programs
office, in terms of the benefit from acting to curb emissions,
and most of those gains were tied to avoiding heat waves,
flooding or droughts.
One of the biggest benefits would be $110 billion in
“avoided damages from lost labor due to extreme temperatures,”
the report said.
Critics say Obama’s pledge to the UN that the U.S. would
cut its emissions by 26 percent to 28 percent by 2025 can’t be
achieved without Congress mandating larger changes to the U.S.
economy. With Republican control of the House and Senate, and
continued congressional criticism of the EPA’s efforts, any new
climate legislation is unlikely.
The administration hasn’t spelled out exactly how it
foresees those emission cuts happening.
That goal “assumes we execute the slate of actions we’ve
identified,” Deese said. “There’s not an assumption” of
congressional action, he said.
To contact the reporter on this story:
Mark Drajem in Washington at
To contact the editors responsible for this story:
Jon Morgan at
Steve Geimann, Justin Blum