Climate Changes Puts Coastal Communities and Agriculture at Risk
The consequences of climate change are real, they are devastating, and they are already affecting communities across the country, from the coasts to the heartland. If Congress does nothing to address the threat of climate change, growing economic risks across industries and regions will impose a high cost on Americans, businesses, the economy, and the federal budget.
Coastal communities are on the front lines of climate change, with millions of people at risk
The fundamental science of climate change is clear: coastal homes, businesses, infrastructure, and lives are threatened by more intense hurricanes, increased flooding, saltwater intrusion into freshwater supplies, and reduced fishery productivity.
More than 300,000 residential and commercial coastal properties, valued at approximately $136 billion today, are projected to be at risk of chronic tidal flooding by 2045 — even absent heavy rains or storms.
Coastal Virginia has been hit particularly hard by climate change. Rear Admiral Ann C. Phillips, USN (Retired), testified at a July 2019 Budget Committee hearing about how coastal Virginia is adapting to climate change: “Coastal Virginia deals with water where we did not plan for it to be, and that impedes the expected pattern of life, in some form, nearly every day,” she said.
These changes put their water-based economy at risk, including the Naval Station Norfolk; the only U.S. shipyard that builds aircraft carriers; the Port of Virginia; beach and water-related tourism; aquaculture and fisheries; and waterfront property and housing stock — a key source of property tax income for both urban and rural localities. In the City of Virginia Beach alone, Admiral Phillips testified that the current annualized losses “result in residential damages of $26 million annually due to coastal flooding events.” If no action is taken, that cost increases to $77 million annually within 20 to 30 years.
If Congress fails to find climate change solutions, coastal communities will continue to be at risk –putting millions of people in danger.
Agricultural impacts are complex but will strain farmers and increase food prices
Farmers are also experiencing the changing climate firsthand, with flooding, drought, and new weather patterns altering planting decisions and agricultural productivity.
Increased heat stress in plants and livestock, reduced soil health and moisture, shifts in pollination, and greater pressure from weeds, pests, and diseases will result in declining crop yields and livestock and poultry productivity, increased rates of crop failure, and reduced food nutrition. Total productivity of the U.S. agricultural economy could drop by more than 4 percent annually, falling to pre-1980 levels by 2050.
While it is difficult to predict exactly how climate change will impact food prices, experts warn people could pay significantly more for food. Stefani Millie Grant, Senior Manager for External Affairs and Sustainability at Unilever, testified at a July 2019 Budget Committee hearing that some researchers speculate Americans eventually might have to spend as much as 60 percent of their household income on food.
Food shortages in one part of the world could also affect prices in other parts of the world, leading to price spikes, or increase political instability as populations face famine and a drought.
In the interest of our coastal communities and our global food supply, Congress must prioritize making critical investments in clean energy and resilience efforts. House Democrats will continue to fight for sustainable, clean energy solutions and work to better protect and prepare communities across the country.