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Act now on climate change or see costs soar, White House says

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By Roberta Rampton

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Putting off expensive measures to curb climate change will only cost the United States more in the long run, the White House said on Tuesday in a report meant to bolster a series of actions President Barack Obama has proposed to address global warming.

"Each decade we delay acting results in an added cost of dealing with the problem of an extra 40 percent," said Jason Furman, chairman of Obama's Council of Economic Advisers.

"We know way more than enough to justify acting today," Furman told reporters.

The report drew its conclusions from 16 economic studies that modeled the costs of climate change. It was released as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency holds public hearings on its plan to cut carbon emissions from power plants - the centerpiece of Obama's climate action plan.

Business groups have said the EPA's plan would hurt jobs in the coal sector and harm the U.S. economy, but the White House and environmental groups have pushed back against that argument.

Last month, a bipartisan report commissioned by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, former U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and environmentalist Tom Steyer forecast a multibillion-dollar price tag for climate costs, such as property losses from storms, declining crop yields and soaring power bills during heatwaves.

At a Senate budget committee hearing on Tuesday examining the costs of not addressing climate change, Republican Senator Jeff Sessions said the United States must also weigh the consequences of acting on climate.

"Inaction costs may be real, but certainly they are distant and somewhat uncertain," said Sessions, the top Republican on the panel.

"Every global warming action has costs and we must acknowledge those costs and decide whether the wealth expended gets the maximum results considering all the needs of America."

The Obama administration plans to make additional climate announcements on Tuesday.

U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz is set to announce actions by his department to reduce methane emissions from the natural gas transmission and distribution system, along with partnerships and "stakeholder commitments," the White House said.

This fall, the administration is set to propose new rules to cut methane emissions from oil and gas wells on public lands, and also will decide whether to propose regulations to address emissions from operations on private land, said Dan Utech, special assistant to the president for energy and climate change.

The administration also will announce partnerships with IBM Corp, Amazon.com Inc, Microsoft Corp, Coca-Cola Co and others to use data to help make agriculture and food production more resilient to climate change, the White House said.

(Additional reporting by Ayesha Rascoe; Editing by Steve Orlofsky and G Crosse)

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