The EPA released a report yesterday titled United States: Benefits of Global Action. In it they try to quantify benefits the United States would receive if the world bands together and limits global warming to 2 degrees Celsius. It’s 82 pages plus end notes–but it’s reader friendly for the most part.
News coverage of the report has been quick-started by mainstream media that have been somewhat over-eager supporters of the most alarmed advocates for action. I want to overlook that, as readers will be aware of my opinion regarding their complaisant acceptance of all projections of doom caused by climate change.
I want to look at the report. To do so, I have to wade past an Introduction that verges on hyperbole, baldly stating that “Across the United States (U.S.), temperatures are rising, snow and rainfall patterns are shifting, and extreme climate events are becoming more common.” U.S. temperatures have risen 0.72C since 1900, it is true. However, drought is not more common, tornadoes and tropical storms have declined and snow and rainfall patterns have always shifted.
So let’s move to the body of the report. It is based on a modeling exercise and tries to show the difference in impacts between a ‘business as usual’ scenario where CO2 concentrations climb to 826 ppm by 2100 and an aggressive mitigation program where concentrations are limited to 462 ppm (we’re at 400 today, so that means a quick stop to emissions). I literally see no way that can happen, but if it makes for an interesting exercise…
Their reference for temperature rises is the IPCC’s Third Assessment Report, published in 2001. Perhaps someone can explain to me why they didn’t refer to the 4th or 5th Assessment Report.
More importantly, their BAU scenario shows temperature rises near the very top end of the IPCC range, 9F, which of course will increase their damage estimates from climate change.
The report maps projected changes in precipitation under BAU conditions, ignoring all the caveats regarding climate models–that they do a very poor job with precipitation. Their map shows the Western half of the United States turning into the Sahara, whereas the rest of the country turns into a perpetual rain collector. In a survey of published climate scientists, most of whom worked in modeling, von Storch, Bray et al found that only 2% thought that models dealt adequately with precipitation.
Their BAU prediction for sea level rise is 56 inches by 2100. This is in sharp contrast to the IPCC, which projects between 52 and 98 centimeters in sea level rise by 2100 in their 5th Assessment Report, or between 20 and 38 inches. This of course will raise the report’s estimated damages.
For impacts on healthcare, they predict increased loss of life due to higher temperatures, but they assign an economic value per life of $9.45 million (I believe $8 million is the going rate right now…) so they get higher numbers. They also only measure 49 cities… and don’t tell us which cities.
The report predicts under BAU circumstances that the number of extremely hot days (undefined) will triple. To which an interested reader can only ask, ‘what is extremely hot? What are the numbers today and what will they triple to?’
They predict the number of hours worked in the U.S. will decrease due to high temperature days under their BAU scenario, estimating that there will be 1.8 billion hours of work lost due to high temperatures by 2100. I wonder how they feel about air conditioned offices and robots…
In their predictions of how much will be saved if we mitigate to stop warming at 2C, they casually mention that some of the savings will be in fact due to adaptation, not just mitigation. But they don’t specify how much…
Gotta stop there. A report like this could have been very helpful, had they offered more than a black and white choice with the dice loaded in their favor. Maybe they’ll do better next time.
As it stands, the report reminds me of something else: