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The Trillion Dollar Crisis Facing the U.S.

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Fears of climate change seems to rise and fall with natural disasters. The East Coast has been fortunate to avoid a hurricane so far this season but out West wildfires have been destroying homes, businesses and forests.

More than 200 square miles are now burning in Yosemite National Park threatening groves of giant sequoias as well as a reservoir that supplies water and power to San Francisco.

Thirty-six large fires are raging in eight western states, from Wyoming to Washington State, plus Texas and Alaska, according to the National Interagency Fire Center. Its web site says the “fire potential remains above normal for a large portion of the Northwest and California Mountains” because “fuels remain much drier than normal.”

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That dryness is due to climate change, according to Ramez Naam, a technologist and author who has written extensively on climate change. “Wildfires are about four times more common in the U.S. now because of climate change,” says Naam.

And the costs to contain the effects of climate change keep rising. For the second year in a row, the federal government has depleted its budget for fighting wildfires and will be forced to get additional funds from other government coffers, according to the U.S. Forest Service.

Last year the U.S. lost $100 billion in economic damages from climate-linked events like Hurricane Sandy and the drought, says Naam. Referring to a recent report from the World Bank, he says “rising sea levels and flood surges” could cost cities like New York, Miami and New Orleans losses up to $1 trillion per year of damages from coastal erosion by mid-century.

Naam agrees with a recent UN report that human behavior has caused most of the warming of the planet, and says it is human behavior that has the potential to reduce it.

Related: Climate Change is Killing the Economy: Here's What You Can Do About It

“We have to slow down the emissions of carbon dioxide and methane from coal burying, oil and eventually natural gas… And the best way to do that are energy efficiency and a switch to renewables, “ says Naam.

But is that economically viable? Naam says it is.

”Today you can buy twenty times as much solar power as you could in 1980… solar is now cost competitive with coal and natural gas in the southwest. And [it's] being deployed completely unsubsidized in a number of countries around the world and the price keeps going down which is not true with coal, natural gas and oil.”

He suggests that investors take advantage of that change, and buy the market leaders, including First Solar (FSLR), the largest U.S. solar panel manufacturer, and Shelton Green Alpha Fund (NEXTX), a mutual fund which invests in green energy stocks. Watch the video above for more ideas on how to limit climate change and profit from that approach.

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