Their report, "Risky Business," presents a number of scenarios that could reduce yields of corn and other crops drastically in the nation's midsection, strain utility systems as hotter summers demand more energy for cooling and flood coastal areas as storms surge and sea levels rise.
"Our economy is vulnerable to an overwhelming number of risks from climate change," said former Treasury Secretary
The report does not prescribe specific fixes such as carbon taxes or targeted reductions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. It lays out the economic risks that range from moderate to severe in different sectors and in different regions of the country if no changes are made, or if different levels of emission reductions occur.
The report concludes that two of the primary impacts of climate change -- extreme heat and sea level rise -- will disproportionately affect certain U.S. regions. And it suggests that the most severe risks can be avoided by investments and immediate action to reduce the pollution that causes global warming.
Under some scenarios presented in the study, warmer temperatures and longer growing seasons could actually increase crop yields in the Upper Great Plains, including
Page, one of 10 members of a committee that served as advisers for the report, said in an interview that while climate change is not an emergency, it's an important issue that needs attention now. The chairman of
"But that isn't an excuse to throw up your hands in helplessness and say there's just so much uncertainty we don't need to do anything," he said. "We need to think about and talk about what are all the adaptations ahead."
For example, if
As far as trying to reduce the factors that cause climate change, Page said that many farmers already are using computers and other high-tech equipment to reduce fuel use and pollution emissions, and to use water more efficiently. Broader deployment of that technology needs to happen and will happen, he said, because it makes good business sense.
The report also suggests that extreme temperatures could become a health threat for many in the eight-state Midwest, defined as
Residents in that area typically experience two or three days each summer of temperatures over 95 degrees, the report said. Under a business-as-usual approach where little or nothing is done to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the Midwest could experience an additional seven to 26 95-plus degree days by midcentury, the report said, and an additional 20 to 75 extreme-heat days by the end of the century.
That in turn would increase the risk of heat stroke, reduce labor productivity, and strain the electric grid, the report says.
In other areas such as the
"The longer we wait to address the growing risks of climate change, the more it will cost us all," Steyer said in a prepared statement. "From a business perspective, given the many benefits of early action, it would be silly to allow these risks to accumulate to the point where we can no longer manage them."
Also on the committee were
Page said that given the potential for disruption, it would be "arrogant" to dismiss climate change as an issue, and that society needs to have a "serious conversation about what we can do now to accommodate a whole range of climate change scenarios."
But he said farmers and their supply chain partners are skilled at adapting to change, and are naturals at taking a long-term, multigenerational approach to their businesses.
The message from agriculture, Page said, is that it will not follow a business-as-usual approach as an industry. "We may well be facing an evolving and uncertain climate and environment," he said, "but we are highly confident, optimistic and committed to making those innovations and adaptations that give us the flexibility to produce enough food in spite of localized disruptions."
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