DIRE WARNING

A new report says climate change will cost American lives and do grave damage to our economy much sooner than you think. We have the details on the findings.

Peril and Promise is an ongoing series of reports on the human impact of, and solutions for, Climate Change. Lead funding for Peril and Promise is provided by Dr. P. Roy Vagelos and Diana T. Vagelos. Major support is provided by Marc Haas Foundation and Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III.

Aired November 26, 2018.

TRANSCRIPT

> WE HAVE ENDED THE WAR ON AMERICAN ENERGY, AND WE HAVE ENDED THE WAR ON BEAUTIFUL, CLEAN COAL.

[ APPLAUSE ]

GOOD EVENING.

AND WELCOME TO 'METROFOCUS.'

I'M JENNA FLANAGAN.

OVER THE HOLIDAY WEEKEND, WHILE WE ALL PAID ATTENTION TO TURKEY, OUR FAMILY, FOOTBALL, AND BLACK FRIDAY SALES, AN OMINOUS AND DIRE GOVERNMENT REPORT ISSUED BY THE U.S. GLOBAL CHANGE RESEARCH GROUP CAME WITH A BLAZING HEADLINES THAT ALMOST GOT LOST IN OUR HOLIDAY FESTIVITIES, AND IT'S ONE WE CAN'T AFFORD TO IGNORE.

ISSUED BY A GROUP OF SCIENTISTS WHO REPRESENT 13 FEDERAL AGENCIES, THEY HAVE ALL COME TO THE SAME CONCLUSION -- CLIMATE CHANGE WILL SHRINK THE U.S.

ECONOMY BY AT LEAST 10%, AND WILL KILL THOUSANDS OF AMERICANS IN ABOUT 80 YEARS.

THAT MAY NOT BE IN OUR LIFETIME, BUT IF YOU HAVE CHILDREN AND GRANDCHILDREN, THIS WILL BE THEIR REALITY.

THE FINDINGS DELIVERED ON A TYPICALLY SLOW POST THANKSGIVING NEWS DAY FLY CONTRARY TO PRESIDENT TRUMP SAYING CLIMATE CHANGE IS A HOAX.

BUT JUST 24 HOURS BEFORE THE REPORT WAS RELEASED BY HIS OWN ADMINISTRATION, THE PRESIDENT, REACTING TO COLD TEMPERATURES THAT HIT THE NORTHEAST TWEETED, WHATEVER HAPPENED TO GLOBAL WARMING?

THIS BREAKING NEWS IS PART OF OUR PERIL AND PROMISE INITIATIVE HERE ON PBS ON CLIMATE CHANGE AND ITS DEVASTATING EFFECTS.

FOR MORE INSIGHT INTO THE GOVERNMENT'S REPORT AND WHAT THIS MEANS FOR ALL OF US IN THE TRISTATE AREA IS A FREQUENT GUEST HERE ON 'METROFOCUS.'

AND THE NEW YORK EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF THE NATURE CONSERVANCY.

BILL, WELCOME BACK.

THANKS, JENNA.

IT'S A REALLY IMPORTANT TOPIC, SO GLAD TO BE HERE.

A VERY UNFORTUNATE TOPIC, BUT THIS TEAMS LIKE IT COULD BE NEWS BUT IT'S NOT.

WE'RE ALREADY FEELING THE EFFECTS OF CLIMATE CHANGE.

ABSOLUTELY.

WHILE THE REPORT IS FOCUSED ON THESE LONG-TERM IMPACTS, AND REALLY WHAT THEY DID WAS, THE LAST REPORT, VOLUME ONE, TALKED ABOUT THE HARD SCIENCE.

THIS IS ABOUT THE ECONOMIC HARDSHIPS TO THE UNITED STATES.

IN 80 YEARS, IT WILL BE CATASTROPHIC.

BUT WE'RE SEEING SO MANY OF THIS ALREADY WITH A DEGREE OF WARMING IN THE PAST CENTURY.

SO WHAT ARE WE GOING TO DO NOW AND CAN WE FORESTALL SOME OF THESE BIG, BIG ECONOMIC EFFECTS?

THE REPORT IS A LOT TO ABSORB FOR THE AVERAGE PERSON, EVEN FOR MYSELF.

WITH CHANGES TO THINGS LIKE CROPS AND FLOODING, ET CETERA, WHAT ARE WE LOOKING FOR, LOOKING AT FOR NEW YORK?

WELL, EXACTLY.

THIS IS NATIONAL IN SCOPE.

NEW YORK, THE BIGGEST EFFECTS WE'RE GOING TO SEE HERE ARE SEA LEVEL RISE, WHICH NOT NECESSARILY STORMS, JUST FULL MOON, HIGH TIDES, AND THE IMPACTS THEY'LL HAVE.

STORM SURGES, LIKE WHAT WE SAW WITH HURRICANE SANDY.

THIRD WILL BE HEAT WAVES.

A LOT MORE OF THEM, A LOT WORSE.

AND THEN FOURTH IS JUST BIG RAINFALL EVENTS, LIKE WHAT WE EXPERIENCED UPSTATE WITH HURRICANE IRENE, JUST BEFORE SANDY.

THESE ARE ALL GOING TO PUT MASSIVE STRESSES ON OUR INFRASTRUCTURE, OUR ECONOMY, AND OUR PEOPLE.

NOW, THIS REPORT CAME OUT AFTER THANKSGIVING, SO PEOPLE DIDN'T HAVE A CHANCE TO DIGEST IT OR ARGUE IT AT THE TABLE, BUT FOR PEOPLE LIKE THE PRESIDENT WHO SAY WELL, IT WAS COLD, WE HAD A FREEZING COLD THANKSGIVING, SO WHAT ARE WE TALKING ABOUT?

HELP ME UNDERSTAND HOW THAT FITS INTO THE CLIMATE CHANGE PICTURE.

THE TRENDS AND MODELS ARE ALL CLEAR.

AND THINGS ARE HEATING UP AND BEING AFFECTED BY THE DRYING OF WESTERN FORESTS FASTER THAN SOME OF THE MODELS PREDICTED.

OF COURSE, THERE'S GOING TO BE VARIABILITY.

SO WE HAD THE INCREDIBLE COLD PERIOD.

THEN JUST A FEW DAYS LATER IT FELT LIKE SPRING HERE IN NEW YORK CITY.

SO YOU GET THESE OSCILLATIONS, THESE UP AND DOWNS.

THAT'S ALL NORMAL.

BUT THE TREND IS VERY CLEAR.

WE'VE SEEN A DEGREE CELSIUS OR ALMOST TWO DEGREES FAHRENHEIT WARMING IN THE LAST CENTURY.

THE CONCERN IS WE'LL GO TO TWO MORE DEGREES FAHRENHEIT OR EVEN BEYOND IN THIS CENTURY.

THAT'S WHERE YOU GET THESE IMPACTS OF $150 BILLION IN, YOU KNOW, INFRASTRUCTURE IMPACTS AND CROP LOSSES EACH -- I MEAN, EVERY ONE OF THESE CATEGORIES THEY'RE TALKING ABOUT NORTH OF $100 BILLION A YEAR.

IT COULD GET -- THEY TALK ABOUT 10% OF THE U.S. GDP.

THE U.S. GDP IS $20 TRILLION.

WE'RE TALKING ABOUT $2 TRILLION IN EFFECTS JUST IN THEITE AS A RESULT -- JUST IN THE UNITED STATES AS A RESULT OF CLIMATE CHANGE.

HERE IN NEW YORK CITY, WE SAW HOW LONG IT TOOK FOR SOME TUNNELS TO COME BACK AFTER HURRICANE SANDY.

NOW THAT PEOPLE HAVE HAD A CHANCE TO READ IT AND DIE SXWRES T -- DIGEST THIS REPORT, WHAT CAN THE AVERAGE PERSON DO?

THREE IMPORTANT THINGS.

ONE IS RECOGNIZE THAT THE OUTCOMES HERE ARE NOT INEVITABLE.

SO THERE IS NO CLIFF WE'RE DRIVING OFF AS A SOCIETY, AS A COUNTRY, AS A WORLD.

EVERY CHOICE WE MAKE HAS THE ABILITY TO DAMPEN THE AMOUNT OF CARBON POLLUTION GOING INTO THE ATMOSPHERE AND REDUCE THE EFFECT.

ONE IS VOTE FOR ELECTED OFFICIALS WHO UNDERSTAND CLIMATE CHANGE AND ARE GOING TO TAKE STEPS TO ADDRESS IT.

TWO IS WE NEED TO GET A PRICE ON CARBON, REDUCE THE DEMAND FOR CARBON EMITTING POLLUTANTS LIKE FOSSIL FUELS AND PUSH THINGS LIKE RENEWABLES AND THE ROLE OF NATURE IN SEQUESTERING CARBON.

THREE IS, EVERY DECISION WE MAKE, HOW WE GO TO WORK, WHETHER WE RECYCLE OR COMPOST, ALL OF THOSE THINGS, THOSE LITTLE MICROSIGNALS WE SEND IN THE SYSTEM MATTER.

LASTLY, OFFSET YOUR CARBON FOOT PRINT.

AT THE END OF EVERY YEAR, I DO A CALCULATION OF HOW MUCH CARBON POLLUTION AND MY FAMILY AND I EMITTED, AND WE INVEST IN TREE PLANTING AS A WAY TO OFFSET THAT.

SO IT'S AN EASY WAY TO DO IT.

IT FEELS GOOD AND HELPS ADDRESS THIS BIG CHALLENGE.

PERHAPS A NEW BLACK FRIDAY TRADITION INSTEAD OF JUST SHOPPING.

BILL, THANK YOU FOR JOINING US, AND GIVING US SOME DEFINITELY NEEDED UNDERSTANDING ON A VERY DEVASTATING REPORT.

THANKS, JENNA.

THANK YOU.

Funders

MetroFocus is made possible by James and Merryl Tisch, Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III, the Sylvia A. and Simon B. Poyta Programming Endowment to Fight Anti-Semitism, Bernard and Irene Schwartz, Rosalind P. Walter, Barbara Hope Zuckerberg, Jody and John Arnhold, the Cheryl and Philip Milstein Family, Janet Prindle Seidler, Judy and Josh Weston and the Dr. Robert C. and Tina Sohn Foundation.

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