What’s spurring regulatory action? Studies such as a July report claiming Nevada could suffer serious economic losses from global warming, for one.
The University of Maryland study, called “Climate Change and the Economy,” asserts that a 3- to 4-degree jump in spring and fall temperatures and a 5- to 6-degree gain in winter and summer temperatures in Nevada by 2100 would yield a drier climate in the Silver State. Dwindling water supplies could affect tourism, development and public health, and could cost the state “billions,” the report states.
For example, a water shortage might curb residential and commercial construction. Building and development rank as the state’s second-biggest job sector, and an industry contraction of 65 percent compared with current building activities would mean $3.6 billion in lost revenue for state and local governments, the study said. An accompanying drop in consumption and labor availability would pile on $4.7 billion more in losses annually.
The Maryland report’s authors said they couldn’t pinpoint the “full effects of climate change” on Nevada’s tourism economy, but they did note that outdoor activities such as fishing, hunting, wildlife-watching, hiking, water sports and golfing would bear the biggest brunt of temperature increases. Take golfing: With less water available for irrigation, course operators could replace vast swaths of green with desert landscaping, a move that might turn off consumers. If the state’s golf sector dropped 25 percent of its business as a result, the Southern Nevada economy alone would lose $194.1 million in economic output, 1,120 jobs and $28.6 million in personal income.
Plus, dropping water levels at Lake Mead could curb boating, fishing and water skiing, and greater wildfire threats could limit visitor volume to Nevada’s state parks.
“There are lots of excellent economic studies that assess the cost of cutting down on greenhouse gases,” said Matthias Ruth, director of the Center for Integrative Environmental Research at the University of Maryland and one of the report’s authors. “We’ve summed up those studies collectively as a society and said, ‘Whoa, that’s a staggering amount.’ We’ve thrown up our hands. But what we’ve forgotten is that there are costs of inaction as well.”
Another recent study cited the job growth that could come from focusing on renewable energy projects. The Center for American Progress and the Nevada Conservation League released a report Tuesday that predicted the creation of 15,000 jobs in Nevada based on an $865 million investment in building retrofits, mass transit and other green initiatives. The money for the projects would come from a carbon tax on businesses.
Some experts disagree with the Maryland study’s bleak outlook.
Robert Mendelsohn, a Yale University professor of economics and management, said global warming could actually spur economic gains for the nation, though less so for Nevada in particular.
The country’s agriculture sector will benefit from longer growing seasons, and that improved output will largely offset any losses from climate change over the next century, Mendelsohn said.
But Nevada’s agricultural sector is small, and farms here already endure relatively warm weather, so “increased temperatures will not be your friend,” Mendelsohn said.
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