Published on September 30th, 2017 | by James Ayre0
Fossil Fuel Industry Has Cost USA $240 Billion A Year Over Last Decade Via Air Pollution & Extreme Weather, Study Finds
September 30th, 2017 by James Ayre
The fossil fuel industry has cost the US around $240 billion a year over the last decade through the effects of extreme weather and air pollution, according to a new study from the non-profit Universal Ecological Fund. That’s $240 billion per year.
That figure represents an average, of course, with year-by-year variations being present depending upon circumstances. This year, for instance, is already approaching the $300 billion mark (by estimation), owing to widespread and damaging wildfires and the fact that multiple powerful hurricanes have struck the US mainland.
“The evidence is undeniable: the more fossil fuels we burn, the faster the climate continues to change,” researchers wrote in the new study.
While extreme weather events are what grabs the headlines, the new study makes it clear that the effects of air pollution on human/worker health are far more damaging. Of the $240 billion a year figure quoted above, an average of $188 billion relates to the effects of air pollution, and “just” $52 billion relates to extreme weather events.
The researchers argue that the rising costs of extreme weather and air pollution could be curtailed somewhat if President Trump was to reduce support for the coal industry and reverse course on the decision to pull out of the Paris Climate Agreement (which has always meant that individual countries are in charge of their own plans and targets, it should be noted).
“We are not saying that all (weather extremes) are due to human activity, but these are the sort of events that seem to be increasing in intensity,” commented co-author Robert Watson, a former head of the UN panel of climate scientists, in an interview with Reuters.
Reuters provides more: “Higher ocean temperatures, for instance, mean more moisture in the air that can fuel hurricanes. And, in a sign of increasing risks, there were 92 extreme weather events that caused damage exceeding $1 billion in the United States in the decade to 2016, against 38 in the 1990s and 21 in the 1980s.
“The combined cost of extreme weather and pollution from fossil fuels would climb to $360 billion a year in the next decade, the study said. Trump’s pro-coal policies could mean more air pollution, reversing recent improvements in air quality.”
Notably, researcher James McCarthy, a professor of Oceanography at Harvard University, commented that even not considering the effects of coal-fired power plants on health, there are now good economic reasons to switch to renewables.
He stated: “Why is Iowa, why is Oklahoma, why is Kansas, why is Texas investing in wind energy? Not because they are interested in sea level rise or ocean temperatures but because it’s economically sensible.”