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Concerned About Jobs? Then You Should Be Concerned About Climate Change, Too -- Here's Why

If we do nothing about climate change -- jobs will be affected in every sector -- from construction to health care and farms to ports.

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Tourism and recreation workers. Nearly a million Californians work in tourism and recreation, five percent of the workforce. Many of the 350 million people who visit California destinations each year come because of outdoor attractions like beaches, ski resorts, parks, and golf courses. All are affected by climate change.

In a do-nothing scenario California's ski industry is projected to collapse, eliminating 15,000 jobs in the industry and at least as many in accommodation, dining, and other service industries. Beaches will suffer inundation from sea level rise and accelerated erosion. Even if sea level rises only three feet or so, the best-case scenario, it would cause a 26% reduction in beach width in Los Angeles and Orange County beaches and the elimination of Las Tunas beach. Sea level rise combined with flooding and coastal erosion could devastate Point Reyes National Seashore, including all known archeological sites of the Coast Miwok Indians; climate change is predicted to wipe out all the Joshua Trees in Joshua Tree National Park.

Nearly $100 billion in tourism and recreation assets at risk, with projected annual cost of200 million to7.5 billion in climate change damage costs. Hundreds of thousands of jobs would thereby also be put at risk.

Public sector workers. As the University of Maryland study The U.S. Economic Impacts of Climate Change points out, "The effects of climate change will likely place immense strains on public budgets, particularly as the cost of infrastructure maintenance and replacement increases. At the same time economic losses may translate into lost tax revenue."

Every cost of climate change in California we have discussed, from fighting forest fires to providing summer drinking water, will increase budget pressures. So will every reduced source of tax revenue, from closed ski lodges to reduced real estate values. The impact of these budget pressures on workers in the public sector is likely to be massive layoffs, permanent downsizings, further pressure on wages and benefits, speed-up, and deteriorating working conditions.

We will all pay the cost

Every flooded city, fire-ravaged forest, and heat-aggravated illness is a cost that is charged to every California worker and taxpayer. The damages if no action is taken will include tens of billions of dollars per year in direct costs, even higher indirect costs, and trillions of dollars of assets exposed to climate risk. These costs will be shared in one way or another by all the people of California. Almost everyone will get poorer than they otherwise would be.

The economic costs of climate change will be experienced partly in costs of direct damage. An individual whose house is flooded out or a town whose roads are destroyed will bear the initial brunt. So will those who get sick, stay home from work, or have to visit the hospital as a result of heat stroke, asthma, or epidemics. If the Pacific Coast Highway (Highway 1) is forced to close permanently, coastal communities up and down the state will be economically devastated.

But these direct effects are only a part of the picture. As the University of Maryland study The US Economic Impacts of Climate Change points out, "Secondary effects of climate change can include higher prices, reduced income and job loss."

Many products will cost more because "prices of raw materials and energy, transport, insurance and taxes" will increase. If there is not enough electricity or water to meet California's needs, their prices will go up. If more properties are destroyed, the price of insurance will go up. If farms are flooded or can't pay for electricity, the price of food will go up. For example, per capita residential electricity use could increase by 50% for air conditioning, putting a huge strain on the power system, costing households billions of dollars a year, and undoubtedly leading to far higher electricity costs.