The study is considered very conservative, and even won praise from libertarian groups. Yet, it is horrifying in its predictions. Here are some amazing things which will happen in the next 50 years:
- In the West and Northwest, climate change is expected to alter precipitation patterns and snow pack, thereby increasing the risk of forest fires.
- The Great Plains and the Midwest will suffer particularly from increased frequency and severity of flooding and drought events, causing billions of dollars in damages to crops and property. For example, a 1988 Midwest drought cost the region over $49 billion – in part because river-borne commercial shipping routes had to be replaced by more expensive railroad transport due to Mississippi River's reduced water levels.
- The Northeast and Mid-Atlantic region will see increased vulnerability to sea level rise and storms. Depending on the category of the event, evacuation costs for the Northeast region may range, for a single event, between $2 and $6.5 billion. With 53 percent of the total population in the U.S. close to major bodies of water, people and infrastructure increasingly lie in harm's way.
- Decreased precipitation levels in the South and Southwest will strain water resources for agriculture, industry and households. For the agriculturally productive Central Valley in California alone, the estimated economy-wide loss during the driest years is predicted to be around $6 billion per year. Net agricultural income for the San Antonio Texas Edwards Aquifer region is predicted to decline by 16 to 29 percent by 2030 and by 30 to 45 percent by 2090 because of competing uses for an increasingly scarce resource -- water. In the Northeast, the maple sugar industry -- a $31 million industry -- is expected to suffer losses of between 15 and 40 percent ($5 to $12 million) in annual revenue due to decreased sap flow. The region can expect a decrease of 10 to 20 percent in skiing days, resulting in a loss of $405 to $810 million per year. The dairy industry is also highly sensitive to temperature changes, since the dairy cows' productivity starts decreasing above 77°F (25°C). In California, an annual loss of $287 to $902 million is expected for this $4.1 billion industry. The value of wine production in California is $3.2 billion. Losses are expected to be nearly 100 percent of existing production, since grape quality diminishes with higher temperatures. The agriculture sector also may experience losses similar to the 1988 drought, which cut production of grain by 31 percent and production of corn by 45 percent.
- By 2100, temperatures in Boston, Mass., will be similar to those of today's Richmond, Va., or Atlanta, Ga. For example, electricity demand in Massachusetts alone may increase by 40 percent by 2030 because of climate change, most of which will occur in summer months and require significant investment in peak load capacity and energy efficiency measures. For Maryland, approximately 24 percent of the increase in household electricity use and almost 10 percent of the increases in industrial electricity use by the year 2025, compared with the 1977-to-2000 average, are attributable to climate change. Nationwide, the required investment in the electrical grind and power production capacity to meet demand created by climate change may exceed $300 billion by the middle of this century.
- Recent estimates indicate that a sea-level rise of nearly 20 inches (50 cm) by 2100 would cause $23 to $170 billion in damages to coastal property throughout the U.S. The present rate of sea level rise is 0.08 to 0.12 inches per year for most of the U.S. coast, and taking into account local subsidence, a 1 to 3 foot sea level rise is anticipated over the next century. Transportation infrastructure in the region is especially vulnerable. In the New York City metropolitan area alone, there are 48 major transit facilities at 10 feet or less above sea level. All of the City's four airports also are at risk. Land in the Puget Sound region in the Pacific Northwest is subsiding by 0.3 to 0.8 inches per year. A two-foot rise in sea level would inundate approximately 56 square miles in Washington state, affecting more than 44,000 people. This kind of change could happen in Tacoma within the next 50 years. In order to protect coastal settlements, expensive infrastructure will need to be designed and re-designed, built and re-built. One estimate of the costs of redesigning the Alaskan Highway seawall is $500 million.
And this is the conservative estimate.