While West Virginia leaders fight every effort to reduce air pollution from coal, relentless carbon buildup in the sky is dooming 136 U.S. shoreline cities and 40 million Americans to disaster, the latest National Geographic says.
Rising seas and ruinous weather like Superstorm Sandy threaten potential U.S. property losses of $3 trillion, the well-trusted magazine says. Around the world, 150 million people and $35 trillion in property are at risk. Such a financial loss would equal almost a tenth of the globe's gross domestic product. The report declares:
"A profoundly altered planet is what our fossil-fuel-driven civilization is creating, a planet where Sandy-style flooding will become more common and more destructive for the world's coastal cities. By releasing carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases into the atmosphere, we have warmed the Earth by more than a full degree Fahrenheit over the past century and raised sea level by about eight inches. Even if we stopped burning all fossil fuels tomorrow, the existing greenhouse gases would continue to warm the earth for centuries. We have irreversibly committed future generations to a hotter world and rising seas."
Climate scientists can't agree on how much arctic ice will melt, or how fast it will raise oceans, or how high seas will climb. Estimates range from a mere foot this century to 10 feet. But if Hurricane Sandy killed 186 people and cost perhaps $50 billion -- with just eight inches of sea rise -- how much worse peril lies ahead?
Horrifyingly, the U.S. Geological Survey says seas would rise as much as 216 feet if all of the planet's ice melted -- a change expected to take thousands of years.
National Geographic provides a map showing all of Florida and much of America's eastern and Caribbean coast gone.
Meanwhile, a report this month in the scientific journal Nature Climate Change predicts that rising seas and superstorms will inflict $1 trillion damage per year on the world's coastal regions by 2050.
Meanwhile, The Nature Conservancy announced last week that it will refuse to invest in any corporation that mines coal or uses coal for power generation.
Although future losses from the greenhouse gas buildup are considered unstoppable, scientists generally agree that they could be reduced by worldwide controls on carbon dioxide emissions.Keep all this in mind, as West Virginia's leaders clamor against federal efforts to clean up coal pollution.