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Report Tallies The Costs Of Climate Change On N.C. Economy, Health

David Boraks
Billions of dollars in real estate are at risk from flooding from storms related to climate change. This house flooded during Hurricane Florence in 2018 near Bolton, in Columbus County.

A new report says global warming, rising sea levels and other effects of climate change will bring billions of dollars in short-term costs to North Carolina's economy and public health in the years ahead.

The report for the Environmental Defense Fund tallies potential costs of climate change over the next 20 to 30 years in eight areas, including real estate, health and safety, tourism and various industrial sectors.

George Van Houtven of research firm RTI International in Raleigh, who wrote the report, said climate change's effects are already being felt across the state.

"The evidence shows that these impacts are likely to grow and even accelerate in the next 20 years, especially if the state doesn't act in different ways, in particular, by reducing greenhouse gas emissions, but also by doing things to prepare, adapt and protect against these growing hazards of climate change," Van Houtven said.

Climate-related flooding, for example, could damage or destroy up to $4 billion worth of residential and commercial property along the Atlantic coast — bringing a big loss of local tax revenue.

And an expected increase in high-heat days could double or triple emergency room visits — disproportionately affecting people of color and with low incomes.

The Environmental Defense Fund says the report shows a need for more limits on pollution that causes greenhouse gases, possibly through a tax on carbon emissions. The group also calls for policies to speed adoption of electric vehicles and renewable energy and improvements in shoreline protections and farming methods.

“These mounting costs should send a warning to our state leaders: North Carolina can’t afford to delay concrete policy action on climate change,” Dionne Delli-Gatti, director of Regulatory and Legislative Affairs for the Environmental Defense Fund said in a statement. "The state needs to act decisively to put a firm limit on climate-warming pollution — an action that can help curb the worst impacts of climate change, while growing clean energy jobs and protecting the communities most impacted by pollution and climate impacts.”

Read the report at https://www.edf.org/climate/costofinaction/northcarolina

Copyright 2020 WFAE.  For more go to WFAE.org

David Boraks is a WFAE weekend host and a producer for "Charlotte Talks." He's a veteran Charlotte-area journalist who has worked part-time at WFAE since 2007 and for other outlets including DavidsonNews.net and The Charlotte Observer.