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Human-induced climate change costs US economy $240B per year, study says

Puerto Rico Hurricane Maria

Homes in the Juana Matos community are surrounded by flood waters in Catano, Puerto Rico, Thursday, Sept. 28, 2017, one week after the passage of Hurricane Maria. (AP Photo/Carlos Giusti)

A recent study by the Universal Ecological Fund, a nonprofit research organization, found that climate change has cost the United States $240 billion per year over the past decade.

The $240 billion includes economic losses from extreme weather events ($42 billion), economic losses from frequent weather events ($10 billion) and health costs due to air pollution caused by fossil fuel energy production ($188 billion).

For reference, $240 billion is 40 percent of the current growth of the United States economy and 1.2 percent of the GDP. The study predicts that this number will grow within the next decade.

The damages caused by extreme weather events have cost the United States more between 2007 and 2016 than any other recorded decade.

The study notes that extreme weather events are the result of natural causes to an extent. However, human activity can contribute to the frequency and intensity of these events.

“The evidence is undeniable: the more fossil fuels we burn, the faster the climate continues to change,” wrote the scientists who conducted the study.

In the 1980s, there were 21 extreme weather events that caused a minimum of $1 billion in economic losses; in the 1990s, there were 38; between 2007 and 2016, there were 92.

Of the extreme weather events, severe storms have increased the most with a four-fold increase compared to the 1990s. Both the number of droughts and the number of flooding events have doubled since then.

Between 2007 and 2016, hurricanes caused $144.6 billion in economic losses, compared to $97 billion in the 1990s and $36.1 billion in the 1980s.

In addition to hurricanes, droughts have cost the United States economy $85.8 billion, wildfires have cost $15.5 billion and flooding events have cost $46.8. The 92 events that occurred across the United States between 2007 and 2016 caused $418.4 billion in damages.

The economic cost of the three major hurricanes, Harvey, Irma and Maria, and the wildfires that have spread throughout nine Western states in 2017 could be just as high as the loss from the 92 events that happened between 2006 and 2017.

The study predicts that, despite recent efforts combating air pollution, that the $240 billion in economic losses could increase to $360 billion per year over the next decade due to the Trump Administration’s “pro-coal” policies and a lack of funding to combat climate change.

Concluding with a call to action, the authors state “actions we take every day where we live, where we work, where we study, how we travel, what we buy, how we build, even what we eat can contribute to climate action and make a difference.”