Fighting climate change could save lives, money: US report

A handout satellite image shows the Earth taken by the Spinning Enhanced Visible and Infrared Imager instrument on MSG-3 satellite on August 7, 2012 (AFP Photo/-) (EUMETSAT/AFP/File)

Washington (AFP) - Taking action against global warming by reducing greenhouse gas emissions could save thousands of lives and avoid major economic losses before century's end, said a US government report issued Monday.

The cost of inaction is compared with the benefits of making changes in the report by the Environmental Protection Agency.

"The report finds that we can save tens of thousands of American lives, and hundreds of billions of dollars, annually in the United States by the end of this century, and the sooner we act, the better off America and future generations of Americans will be," said EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy.

Global action against climate change could reduce the frequency of extreme weather events such as heat waves, which can be deadly, the report said.

Taking steps to improve air quality could save about 13,000 deaths in 2050 and 57,000 deaths in 2100, it said.

Across nearly all of the 20 industry sectors studied, global action on climate change would reduce economic damage from climate change, with road maintenance alone saving up to seven billion dollars annually by 2100.

Some parts of the United States are expected to suffer more from climate change than others. The drought across the west, wildfires in the midwest and floods and sea level rise in the mid-Atlantic and southeast are of particular concern.

But taking action now could save money, it said.

"For example, in a future without greenhouse gas reductions, estimated damages from sea-level rise and storm surge to coastal property in the lower 48 states are $5.0 trillion dollars through 2100," the report said.

"With adaptation along the coast, the estimated damages and adaptation costs are reduced to $810 billion."

The report was based on the Climate Change Impacts and Risks Analysis project, led by EPA in collaboration with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the Pacific Northwest National Lab, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and others.

The White House described the project as "one of the first efforts to quantify the benefits of global action on climate change across a large number of US sectors... related to health, infrastructure, electricity, water resources, agriculture and forestry, and ecosystems."