Air Pollution, Global Warming Costing California Billions Each Year

Global warming may impose high tolls on the state’s $2.5-trillion real estate assets, with extreme weather, sea level rise and frequent wildfires likely to cost it between $300 million and $3.9 billion a year, depending on warming rates and greenhouse gas emission efforts, warns a ”California Climate Risk and Response” report by University of California, Berkeley researchers Fredrich Kahrl and David Roland-Holst, while ”The Benefits of Meeting Federal Clean Air Standards in the South Coast and San Joaquin Valley Air Basins” study by a California State University, Fullerton team under Institute for Economics and Environment Studies (IEES) Co-Director Jane V. Hall shows air pollution in those two regions already costs the state about $28 billion each year due mostly to premature deaths.

”Our report makes it clear the most expensive thing we can do about climate change is nothing,” Berkeley Professor Roland-Holst told Los Angeles Times writer Margot Roosevelt. ”If we make the right investments, we can avert much of the damage in any scenario.”

Fullerton Professor Hall was equally explicit in her interview with Times writer Louis Sahagun.

”We are going to pay for it one way or the other. Either we pay to fix the problem or we pay in loss of life and poor health,” she pointed out. ”This study adds another piece to the puzzle as the public and policymakers try to understand where do we go from here.”

Released as the California Resources Agency’s six task forces — on biodiversity and habitat; infrastructure; oceans and coastal resources; public health; water; and forestry and agriculture — complete work on elements of its comprehensive Climate Adaptation Strategy to be published next month, and as the California Air Resources Board gets ready for its December 11 vote on rules that would force filter installation or engine upgrades in more than a million heavy-duty diesel trucks, the Berkeley and Fullerton research documents offer officials quantitative bases for their steps.

The Berkeley climate change report ”assesses the real, comprehensive statewide impacts for the first time,” said California Resources Agency Deputy Secretary for Climate Change and Energy Anthony Brunello.

The Fullerton findings will ”be useful to all of us,” said California Air Resources Board Chair Mary Nichols. ”Our board members hear on a regular basis from constituents who are concerned about the costs of regulations, and seldom hear from people concerned about their health because they are collectively and individually not as well organized.”

Coalition for Clean Air community engagement director Nidia Bautista called the Fullerton data ”staggering, and a reminder that health is too often the trade-off when it comes to cleaning the air.”

And East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice spokesman Angelo Logan added, ”At a time when government is handing out economic stimulus packages, we could use an economic relief package to help us deal with environmental impacts on our health, families and pocketbooks.”

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