Mark K. Matthews

Climate change already has hurt the U.S. economy and is expected to do even more damage in the years ahead unless American policymakers join the world in trying to mitigate its worst effects, according to a new congressional report.

The findings by the Democrats on the Joint Economic Committee are neither new nor surprising, but they do add another voice to the chorus that has spelled out in ever-increasing detail the dangers of a warmer planet.

"These changes will cost lives, force waves of human migration across the globe, upend insurance markets, and have dire consequences for the American economy," noted the authors of the 10-page report. "The Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond projects that climate change could reduce annual economic growth in the United States by one third over the next century."

The reasons run the gamut, from the expected rise of disaster recovery costs to a decline in property values, especially in coastal regions.

Citing analysis from the White House Office of Management and Budget, the report projected that climate change could increase the average annual cost of hurricane relief by $50 billion within 60 years.

There are other hidden costs, too.

"One year after Hurricane Harvey, for example, thousands of children remained stranded in shelters, motels, campgrounds, and cars while their homes remained in disrepair, resulting in a significant emotional and educational toll for these students," noted the report.

Another major concern is homes and businesses on the coasts, which are vulnerable to rising seas.

"Within the next century, more than $1 trillion in homes and commercial properties will be at increased risk of chronic tidal flooding because of climate change," wrote the authors.

The Joint Economic Committee comprises Democrats and Republicans from both the House and Senate. Its main purpose is to make recommendations on fiscal policy.

The Democratic side of the committee is responsible for this latest climate report.

"Climate change is one of the greatest threats the global community will face in the 21st century, and we are already feeling its disastrous effects," Sen. Martin Heinrich of New Mexico, the top Democrat on the panel, said in a statement. "If we don't act now on climate change, the financial threat to working families across this country will only grow."

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