STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.
RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:
And I'm Renee Montagne. Aside from its other effects, climate change endangers the U.S. economy. That's the conclusion of a new study. The study presents no new climate science.
INSKEEP: But it makes dire predictions about jobs, farms, energy production and more. The study says if nothing is done, crop yields will fall by more than 70 percent in the Midwest. Billions of dollars worth of property will go underwater on the East Coast. [POST-BROADCAST CORRECTION: The audio of this story incorrectly states that crop yields "will" fall by more than 70 percent in the Midwest; it should have stated that crop yields "could" fall by more than 70 percent in the Midwest.]
MONTAGNE: To be clear, that doesn't mean the mortgage is too big. It means underwater. NPR's John Ydstie reports.
JOHN YDSTIE, BYLINE: The title of this study is Risky Business, and the driving force behind it is a bipartisan group of prominent former businessman and public officials - their former entrepreneur and New York Mayor, Michael Bloomberg, hedge fund manager Thomas Stier and Henry Paulson, a former Wall Street titan and treasury secretary under George W. Bush. Paulson acknowledges many in his party are skeptical of the science of climate change and want more research. Paulson says his new study suggest that business and investment community need to take action.
HENRY PAULSON: And it's going to increasingly be difficult for anybody regardless of party to say there isn't a problem.
YDSTIE: Paulson says he hopes the study can influence the business community by applying a major business tool - the science of risk management.
PAULSON: The more we can talk about risk management, which is part and parcel of the free enterprise system in a conservative principle, I think we will make some headway.
YDSTIE: Here's an example of what the study concludes. It says there's a better than even chance that as much as $23 billion worth of existing Florida property will be underwater by the middle of the century. But it goes on to estimate something investors call a tail risk, a low probability but extremely high cost event that pushes the losses far above that $23 billion. For Florida property, the tail risk is that there's a one in 100 chance that by the end of the century, as much as $681 billion worth of property will be submerged. Robert Rubin, another Wall Street veteran and former treasury under President Clinton, is also involved in the Risky Business study. He says the threats are widespread across the economy.
ROBERT RUBIN: Agricultural yields could fall by 50 percent or more in some parts of the country. You could have temperatures that prevented people from working outdoors for some part of the years in certain parts of the country. All this has massive effects and all this is a very realistic projection of what is likely to happen if we don't act.
YDSTIE: Paulson proposes a tax on carbon emissions that scientists say are causing climate change. To provide an incentive to wean the economy off carbon-based fuels.
RUBIN: A carbon tax is one way of putting a price on this pollution. One way of letting the market operate.
YDSTIE: But there's virtually no chance a carbon tax will pass Congress anytime soon. Rubin suggests an interim step that doesn't need congressional approval. It would be a requirement by the SEC and Financial Accounting Standards Board that companies disclose the risks that climate change poses to their assets and profits.
RUBIN: I think we've got to act on all possible fronts 'cause I really do think that life on earth as we know it is at stake here.
YDSTIE: That's former treasury secretary Robert Rubin. I'm John Ydstie. NPR News, Washington.
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