Global warming: What it could cost you
Global warming students see two problems emerging that will have sizable economic impact. First, because the water is warmer (which fuels hurricanes), there is the potential for the storms to cause more damage. And second, if sea levels are already higher (due to warmer water, plus the effects of melting ice sheets), a storm surge could be even worse.
If there is a rise of five to six feet in the sea level
"over the next century or two, one-third
of Florida is gone," says Miller.
Field agrees: "With every
meter (39.37 inches) of sea level, you lose
a substantial amount of South Florida."
In an area like New York City,
which sits close to the ocean, if you combine
rising levels and a nor'easter, "you'll
have things like the subway filling with water,"
“If we don't get serious about global warming in the next 10 to 15 years, coastal property values will crash.”
Another problem with warming
is the heat. By the end of the century, we
could see heat waves in Los Angeles or San
Francisco go from 12 days to 100 days, says
Field. That heat also magnifies smog problems,
meaning there are "more kids with asthma,
more people who can't go outside," he
says. "There will be a greater number
of people who have air pollution-related health
conditions." What's more, warming helps
some types of ragweed, as well as bug-borne
diseases like malaria and dengue fever, he
says. So America could expect to see "more
serious impacts from hay fever," as well
as more malaria and dengue fever cases.
Drought, climate changes and storm damage
could also lead to shortages or disruptions
in food, water and energy supplies.
"We've already seen impacts of warming on the yields of corn, wheat and barley," says Field. "Worldwide, for every degree the temperature goes up, the yield goes down 8 percent."
An aging water and sewer infrastructure, melting snow
packs in the western mountains and increasing
heat and drought in the West have several
experts predicting struggles over the water
supply -- and an end to cheap water.
By 2020 -- just about the time today's toddlers are in high school -- "I think it's untenable for water to be free or as cheap as it is in many places," says Romm.
There would likely be "increased water prices and shortages in some areas," says Miller, "first affecting agriculture in the West. It would have a profound effect on the economy in the West."
|If everyone in America recycled their junk mail, $370 million in landfill dumping fees could be saved each year.
But Mother Nature is also throwing some curve balls.
"In a lot of cases, the effects from
climate changes interact in unexpected ways,"
says Field. For example, as water levels in
San Francisco Bay rise, salty sea water is
flowing upriver, which is a big problem because
that water is used to irrigate fertile California
"After a big storm,
you already have salt levels that are unacceptable,"
he says. "The concern is that instead
of getting it once every five years, you get
it once every month, and eventually the water
will be too salty to use."