During the past decade, most games in the World Series have been played in temperatures ranging roughly from 50 to 75 degrees. The game in Los Angeles broke the scale.
One warm baseball game doesn’t prove that the world is warming, of course. But it’s also interesting that the teams playing in the Series are from Los Angeles and Houston.
Earlier this month, wildfires tore through California wine country north of San Francisco, killing dozens of people and causing millions of dollars in damage. Southern California wasn’t spared, though, with multiple fires burning near Los Angeles. As of Wednesday afternoon, the state of California reported at least four fires burning in an arc around the city.
Houston, of course, is still recovering from Hurricane Harvey, which deluged the city and the Gulf Coast with more rain than has ever before been recorded in the United States from a single weather event.
Climate change models suggest that, as the planet continues to warm thanks to heat trapped in the atmosphere, we will see more of each of these things: Bigger wildfires. More powerful hurricanes, More extreme precipitation events.
These events will be expensive. Earlier this week, the Government Accountability Office released a report indicating that about $350 billion had already been spent on extreme weather and fire events over the past decade — none of which, again, can be explicitly said to have been caused solely by climate change, but which are generally the sorts of things we’d expect to see as the world warms.
By 2100, the GAO (using analysis from third-party organizations) anticipated a broadly negative effect on the United States as the world keeps warming. Increased flooding, lower crop yields, power shortages, more heat-related deaths.
There will be a human toll to those shifts — but the GAO’s point was that there would also be a broad economic toll. By the end of the century, the costs of climate change on the American economy could total $34 billion to $112 billion a year for fire suppression, crop insurance and coastal disaster relief.
The government has been scrambling to pay for the country’s most recent disasters, including the aftermath of the fires in California, Hurricanes Harvey and Irma in Texas and Florida and Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico. On Wednesday morning, Politico reported on the efforts to pass a third round of funding to address disaster costs, probably running into the tens of billions.
But there’s a catch. “[T]his time,” Politico reports, the Office of Management and Budget “wants Congress to provide spending offsets as part of the disaster relief bill — a sign that spending billions of dollars constantly is getting expensive, and perhaps politically exhausting.” Offsets mean that, to approve $40 billion in spending on disasters, $40 billion (or some portion thereof) has to be cut somewhere else.
Spending billions of dollars constantly is getting expensive. That’s why the GAO report suggested that legislators would have to “weigh the potential economic and social impacts of climate change against the costs of policies to reduce emissions or make our economy more resilient.”
The organization that’s meant to help figure out how to reduce the negative effects of climate change by addressing the greenhouse gas emissions that are trapping that atmospheric heat is the Environmental Protection Agency. EPA scientists understand that the world is warming; the three links on wildfires, hurricanes and precipitation above go to EPA websites that track those three things as indicators of the warming climate.
Under President Trump, though, the EPA’s role has been sharply curtailed. Most recently, EPA scientists who were supposed to present at a scientific conference in Rhode Island were barred from doing so. The conference was organized to present a 500-page report detailing the status of Narragansett Bay and the role of climate change in how it has changed. While the EPA logo is still on the report, no one from the agency will speak about it.
More broadly, the EPA under Trump (and administrator Scott Pruitt who, before taking that job, had sued the EPA multiple times) has dramatically cut its estimates of the long-term costs of greenhouse gas emissions as part of its effort to scale back an Obama administration rule limiting carbon dioxide emissions from power plants.
“After a few years out, basically we’re not counting any effects on any future generations of Americans,” NYU’s Jason Schwartz told S&P Global Market Intelligence.
Opposition to acting on climate change is pervasive in the Trump administration.
We’ve drifted a long way from that Dodgers game. But that’s the broader point: The effects of the warming climate will increasingly become the norm in the United States. Big fires and massive floods and record temperatures will be costly and common.
Not all World Series games will be played in 100-degree heat. They are still played in late October, and often in cities with much more moderate climates than in Los Angeles. At some point, however, Dodger Stadium may want to upgrade its scoreboard.