We’ve all heard the lament from those who oppose government action to stem climate change: Tackling this challenge would devastate the U.S. economy. Anyone who still believes that needs to sit down with the second volume of the fourth National Climate Assessment, issued November 23 by the federal government.

The authors of the new report have begun to put dollar signs next to projected climate damage, specifically within the United States, The Washington Post reported. In a worst-case climate-change scenario, the document finds, labor-related losses by the year 2090 as a result of extreme heat — the sort that makes it difficult to work outdoors or seriously lowers productivity — could amount to an estimated $155 billion annually. Deaths from temperature extremes could take an economic toll of $141 billion per year in the same year, while coastal property damage could total $118 billion yearly, researchers found.

“This report makes it clear that climate change is not some problem in the distant future. It’s happening right now in every part of the country. When people say the wildfires, hurricanes and heat waves they’re experiencing are unlike anything they’ve seen before, there’s a reason for that, and it’s called climate change,” said Brenda Ekwurzel, climate science director at the Union of Concerned Scientists and a report author.

That view was echoed by Susanne Torriente, the chief resilience officer for Miami Beach. “We don’t debate who caused it,” she told The Washington Post. “You go outside, the streets are flooded. What are you going to do about it? It’s our reality nowadays.” Miami Beach is already spending hundreds of millions of dollars to adapt to rising sea levels.

The report warns that the country is particularly unprepared for the upheavals that will come as rising sea levels swamp coastal cities: “The potential need for millions of people and billions of dollars of coastal infrastructure to be relocated in the future creates challenging legal, financial, and equity issues that have not yet been addressed.”

In its response to the document, the White House told the BBC that the report was “largely based on the most extreme scenario, which contradicts long-established trends by assuming that... there would be limited technology and innovation, and a rapidly expanding population.”

The National Climate Assessment is more limited in scope than the October report from the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that explored what it would take for the world to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. But the new report, Umair Irfan wrote in Vox, echoes the same basic themes about climate change:

  1. It’s already happening.

  2. It’s going to get worse.

  3. It’s going to cost us dearly.

  4. We can still do something about it.

As the government report put it, global warming “is transforming where and how we live and presents growing challenges to human health and quality of life, the economy, and the natural systems that support us.” The report, which was based on the work of 300 scientists, concluded that humans must act aggressively to adapt to current impacts and mitigate future catastrophes “to avoid substantial damages to the U.S. economy, environment, and human health and well-being over the coming decades.”

“It’s not that we care about a 1-degree increase in global temperature in the abstract,” said Katharine Hayhoe, an author of the report and an atmospheric scientist at Texas Tech University. “We care about water, we care about food, we care about the economy—and every single one of those things is being affected by climate change today.”

There was sobering news for every region of the country. Across the Southeast, massive wildfires—like those seen now in California—could soon become a regular occurrence, smothering Atlanta and other cities in toxic smog, the report warns. In New England and the mid-Atlantic, it says, oceanfront barrier islands could erode and narrow. And in the Midwest, it forecasts plunging yields of corn, soybeans, wheat, and rice.

The Chicago Tribune’s Tony Briscoe wrote: "Midwest farmers will be increasingly challenged by warmer, wetter and more humid conditions from climate change, which also will lead to greater incidence of crop disease and more pests and will diminish the quality of stored grain."

Concerned commercial fishermen in California and Oregon have headed to court, Scientific American reported, contending that oil and gas companies have hurt the fishing market in the Pacific Ocean by raising temperatures on Earth. The Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations is seeking financial compensation for its losses from 30 companies.

Republican Senator Susan Collins represents Maine, where the lobster industry has been affected by warming seas. She tweeted that the National Climate Assessment "should cause all of us, including the Administration, to take a harder look at the consequences of inaction & use what is known about climate risks to inform policy."

The best policy, in our view, is a national carbon fee, which would fire up the free market to accelerate the nation’s transition away from fossil fuels. Every member of the 116th Congress should read the highlights in the new report and then do his or her part to help our country meet this central challenge.


With Democrats taking control of the House in January, what is the outlook for progress on climate change?

"Being realistic, it may be tough for legislation to be approved by this administration, but there are many acts to building a legislative agenda,” said Congressman Paul Tonko (D-NY), who is likely to become chairman of the Environment Subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

“We'll be looking into an agenda that would advance efficiency, grid modernization, and maybe rolling it into a larger infrastructure bill that addresses both improving resilience for adaptation and investing in our infrastructure with issues like [electric vehicle] charging deployment," he told POLITICO.

We can expect the full Energy and Commerce Committee to tackle this central challenge, too. Congressman Frank Pallone (D-NJ) is probably going to serve as chairman and said, if so, he'll examine the impacts of climate change on communities and the economy.

Come January, the House Science Committee no longer will be run by Congressman Lamar Smith (R-TX), who publicly questioned the integrity of federal climate scientists and routinely questioned whether humans are contributing to climate change. He often spoke of what he considered the benefits of carbon dioxide emissions.  Smith’s likely successor is a rather different Texan, Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson, who released a statement promising to restore “the credibility of the Science Committee as a place where science is respected and recognized as a crucial input to good policymaking.”

On top of those switches, there are expectations that the Select Committee on Global Warming, which the Republicans abolished when they took control of the House in January 2011, will be brought back to life. That panel was not authorized to advance its own bills, but it used dozens of hearings to evaluate advancements in renewable power and the consequences of climate change.

In addition, there will be more oversight of EPA, Interior, and other government agencies, making it more difficult for the Trump administration to undo regulations that were put in place to fight climate change.

The GOP casualties of the midterm election included at least 14 members of the bipartisan House Climate Solutions Caucus. Eight others are retiring, so the 43-Republican roster has been cut in half. The most notable loss was Caucus Co-chairman Carlos Curbelo (R-FL).

Executive Director Mark Reynolds of the Citizens' Climate Lobby, which helped create and promote the caucus, issued a post-election statement insisting that "reports of the death of the Climate Solutions Caucus are greatly exaggerated… We’re confident other Republicans will step up to lead, and the existing and potential members are invested in continuing bipartisan work on climate.”

Florida Congressman Francis Rooney, a caucus member who was reelected, said, "I definitely want to see it continue. The ...caucus has brought some Republicans into the discussion of sea-level rise and climate change. It's healthy to have more people involved in that discussion."

Rooney told The Washington Post that he believes there would be bipartisan support for adaptation to sea-level rise. "There may be debate about long-term climate cycles and manmade CO2 and all that," he said. "But I don't know how you get around the fact that they've measured the change in the level of the seas."

Though the caucus has been criticized for failure to score any significant legislative points and has been mocked by some as primarily a “greenwashing” vehicle, its existence is crucial for depoliticizing the climate issue, according to Bob Inglis. The former Republican congressman from South Carolina now runs republicEn, a group seeking free-market solutions to climate change. "The thing to keep in mind is in order for climate action to be durable it has to be bipartisan," Inglis said in a Post interview.

Last summer Curbelo introduced a carbon tax bill, which was cosponsored by Rooney and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA), a caucus member who barely survived a Democratic challenge last week. Rooney wants to reintroduce a version of that bill. "I'd like to see a way to roll it out with a little more fanfare and a little more media support," he told a Washington Post reporter.


To a greater extent than ever before, the best interest of many businesses and those of the planet are aligned. That’s how The Washington Post’s Steven Mufson put it in a story that ran just after the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s October 8 report warning that the world is headed toward an increase of 3 degrees Celsius instead of the 1.5 degrees ceiling that the Paris Agreement calls for.   

“We need to future-proof ourselves,” said  Feike Sijbesma, chief executive of the Dutch multinational Royal DSM. “Some of my investors and banks asked me what do you want to do: Improve the world or make money? I said, ‘Well, both.’ ”

“A lot of investors want to understand the implications of a low-carbon economy,” said Bob Litterman, a member of our Advisory Board who is a nationally recognized authority on risk management. “Quantifying that is difficult. And they’re worried that a major climate transition could take place much faster than expected.” During a 23-year career at Goldman Sachs, he helped create the Black-Litterman Global Asset Allocation Model.

“If you look at this problem from a risk-management point of view, you look at that worst-case scenario,” Litterman said. “And the worst-case scenario is really, really bad.”

A number of major corporations are taking action.

  • Walmart has installed more than 1.5 million energy-efficient LED light fixtures across more than 6,000 stores, parking lots, distribution centers and corporate offices in 10 countries, driving down lighting costs by hundreds of millions of dollars over the past decade, the company said. Walmart also said it had exceeded its goal to double the efficiency of its trucking fleet by 2015, thereby saving nearly $1 billion.

  • Costco has installed solar systems on top of at least 100 of its warehouse stores, and some locations use solar power in parking lots.

  • UPS is shifting toward electric vehicles and plans to operate a quarter of its vehicles with alternative fuel by 2020.

  • Europe’s largest bank, HSBC, will no longer fund new coal-fired power plants, oil-sands development or Arctic drilling.

  • New Jersey-based PSEG, one of the nation’s largest utilities, recently unveiled a six-year, $4.1 billion climate plan, with two-thirds of the money aimed at boosting energy efficiency. An additional $300 million will go toward 40,000 new charging stations for electric vehicles. “We need to step up our game,” said Ralph Izzo, the utility’s CEO.

“We’ve gone from saying ‘it would be nice to do, but it would cost us’ to saying ‘if we don’t do it, we won’t be able to grow, we won’t be able to have tomorrow’s economy,’ ” Andrew Steer, president of the World Resources Institute, told Mufson.“It’s wonderful what [companies] are doing,” he said. “But we also need governments. They are two blades of a pair of scissors, so to speak.”

We believe that the most effective step our government could take is to price carbon, and we are urging business leaders to make that case to Congress. Will the Congress that convenes in January take action? We will be encouraging lawmakers to do so.


“Over past year or two, a carbon fee has been emerging as the best and maybe the only solution to climate change that can command significant bipartisan support,” PRG co-founder George T. Frampton, Jr., said during a carbon-pricing forum at the recent Global Climate Action Summit in San Francisco. He told the audience that neither cap-and-trade nor an EPA-led regulatory approach appears politically viable.

Since it is market-based, a fee appeals to many Republicans. Another panel member, Josiah Neeley of R Street, said that as a conservative he values a fee because it “best respects human freedom,” leaving it to the consumer to buy what he wants.

Frampton and others emphasized that the key to progress on climate change--and specifically on a carbon fee--is advocacy from the business community. “We have done visits to more than 250 members of Congress, both staff and members, and a large majority, including Republicans, believe climate change is occurring,” he said September 13. “But they tell us they need to know that the business community will have their back if they go public in support of a carbon fee.” Businesses, meantime, are wary of finding themselves “out there in the Valley of Death, hit by a tweet from the president for publicly backing a fee.”

The summit, Frampton said later, “was a demonstration of energy by those determined to show that President Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris Agreement does not mean that the United States as a whole is abandoning the cause.”  

Thousands of mayors, climate activists and business leaders from around the world were on hand. The news at the summit included a report that 27 major cities around the world have seen emissions decrease over a five-year period and are now at least 10 percent lower than their peak. The cities include Berlin, Los Angeles, New York, and Paris, with a total population of about 54 million people.

There was no shortage of announcements at the meeting. Companies like Walmart and Unilever rolled out new programs to limit deforestation in their huge supply chains. Dozens of philanthropic groups committed $4 billion over the next five years to fight climate change. (The Chronicle of Philanthropy noted that there has been criticism that the philanthropic world has "chronically underfunded" climate work.)

“A key premise of the conference,” wrote Brad Plumer of The New York Times, “was that if a handful of leading-edge states, cities and businesses can demonstrate that it’s feasible — and even lucrative — to go green in their own backyards, they might inspire others to follow suit. That, in turn, could make it easier for national leaders to act more forcefully.” Most research shows that subnational and nonstate action has promise but cannot replace ambitious national policy as the cornerstone of climate mitigation.

Among those attending from other countries was Catherine McKenna, Canada’s minister of environment and climate change. She told The Times, “It is important to show the world that we’re still working with U.S. states. There really are practical things we can do together.”

One major goal of the summit was to build momentum. Frampton predicted that the debate on carbon pricing would accelerate after the elections, and he expects the energy generated in San Francisco to help build political support. Some lawmakers, he said, may be lured by the massive revenue stream that a carbon fee would generate. Speaking to the summit by video, Republican Congressman Carlos Curbelo of Florida touted his carbon tax bill, which most observers believe he will re-introduce in the new Congress.

The momentum also could help during December’s COP24 negotiations in Poland, the most important since the 2015 Paris agreement. Poland is where countries are supposed to complete the rules governing that agreement. That would encompass everything from how countries should report on their climate actions to how donors will count and mobilize climate finance to aid developing countries. Preparatory negotiations in Bangkok this month left many of these issues unresolved.  Alden Meyer of the Union of Concerned Scientists, a long-time player in climate policy, told The Times that there was “a real can-do spirit” at the summit. Looking ahead to the Poland negotiations, he said, “We’ll see if that mentality can permeate upward.”


PRG co-founder George Frampton has been invited to be part of a September 13 forum on carbon taxes at the Global Climate Action Summit in San Francisco. He and other leaders, including Congressman Carlos Curbelo (R-FL), chief sponsor of a new carbon tax bill, will devote half a day to exploring ways to advance such legislation. “This will provide a great opportunity to explain why this free-market approach is the most powerful and most efficient option for combating the climate-related problems we face,” Frampton said.

Titled THE U.S. BUSINESS CASE FOR A CARBON TAX: Driving Innovation, Equity & Opportunity, this forum will seek to answer questions such as: 1) What kind of carbon tax is best for the economy and environment?  2) How should the revenues generated be used? 3) What’s most politically feasible and socially equitable? The forum runs from 1 to 5:30 p.m. PDT, and Frampton will take part in an examination of the national political landscape, set to go from 3:15 to 3:55 p.m. Gap, Inc. will host the carbon tax event at its corporate headquarters, 2 Folsom Street, and it is open to the public.

Other invitees include U.S. Senator Brian Schatz (D-HI); Massachusetts State Senator Mike Barrett (D), sponsor of his state’s carbon fee bill; and representatives from Students For Carbon Dividends, The Nature Conservancy, R Street, Exelon, and ExxonMobil.

The summit will bring leaders and people together from around the world to “Take Ambition to the Next Level.” Organizers want to celebrate the achievements of states, regions, cities, companies, investors and citizens. They also will underline new and continuing efforts underway across the Summit’s five challenge areas: healthy energy systems, inclusive economic growth, sustainable communities, land and ocean stewardship, and climate investments toward the next milestone of “peaking” pollution worldwide by 2020 as a prelude to decarbonizing the global economy.

“The value and the beauty of the summit — a little bit of the magic, so to speak — is bringing all the non-state actors together to show what they can do and how much more they’re ready to do," Ceres CEO Mindy Lubber told Joel Makower, chairman and executive editor of GreenBiz Group. You can virtually attend the Global Summit by streaming it live on YouTube, Facebook and Twitter.

Makower, writing a summit preview for his website GreenBiz, also spoke with Mark Watts, executive director of C40, a network of the world’s largest cities committed to addressing climate change. "I think we’ve got over 30 mayors of major cities, which is a huge number for this kind of event to travel to San Francisco, who will be on stage announcing or explaining the commitments they’ve made across four major areas: energy; transport; waste management; and building energy efficiency," Watts said.

Business for Social Responsibility (BSR), Makower reported, is playing a leading role in making sure that the business community is well-represented across the entire summit "working closely with our six partners in the We Mean Business coalition," according to CEO Aron Cramer.

That involves sending two key messages, he told Makower. “The first is that climate action is good for business. It’s happening, and businesses are reorienting their models in order to shift to a low-carbon and ultimately a new zero economy by the middle of the century. And related to that is the business community sending a strong signal to policymakers that climate ambition on their part is important and that with the right policy frameworks, businesses can and will go even further in accelerating action on the road to a clean energy economy."

The summit’s list of high-profile speakers is impressive. Among them are former Secretary of State John Kerry; European Commissioner for Climate Change and Energy Miguel Arias Canete; former U.S. Navy Secretary Ray Mabus; Canada’s Minister of the Environment and Climate Change Catherine McKenna; former Secretary of State George Shultz; astronaut Mae Jemison; executives from McDonald’s, Walmart, Starbucks, and United Airlines; and the governors of New Jersey, Hawaii, Washington, Puerto Rico, and Connecticut.

The final months of 2018 will feature other important climate gatherings, reflecting the broad global determination to make progress. This year’s annual COP conference (COP24), organized by the UNFCCC, is December 3 to 14 in Katowice, Poland. Coming up later this month is Climate Week in New York, and from November 6 to 8, BSR is hosting “A New Blueprint for Business,” also in New York. There are others, as well.