“Climate change impacts are already costing the federal government money, and these costs will likely increase over time as the climate continues to change”, so concludes a report by the non partisan, Government Accountability Office (GAO), published yesterday.
The GAO, which is seen as the watchdog for Congress, has spent two years researching and writing the report, which will make brutal reading for a climate denying President.
The GAO concludes the Federal US Government has spent over $350 billion over the last decade paying out for extreme weather and fire events.
However, these costs will likely rise as climate change increases, and could reach over $100 billion per year by the end of the century. Even then this could be an underestimate, with losses in labor productivity as much as $150 billion by 2099 alone.
The report details current costs associated with climate change in the US, including $205 billion for domestic disaster response and relief; $90 billion for crop and flood insurance; $34 billion for wildland fire management; and $28 billion for maintenance and repairs to federal facilities and federally managed lands, infrastructure, and waterways.
The report is published as climate related disasters – ranging from hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria to wildfires across the Western US, are believed to have already cost $300 billion so far this year. And we still have over two months of the year to go.
The GAO is damning on the response to the issue by the climate denying Trump Administration, which continues its assault on the science of climate change and scientists within federal government working on the issue, and has begun dismantling every climate change initiative undertaken by the Obama Administration.
“The federal government has not undertaken strategic government-wide planning to manage climate risks by using information on the potential economic effects of climate change to identify significant risks and craft appropriate federal responses”, it warns.
“By using such information, the federal government could take an initial step in establishing government-wide priorities to manage such risks,” the GAO adds.
The report was written at the request of Republican Senator Susan Collins and Democratic Senator Maria Cantwell, the lead Democratic on the Senate energy committee, who represents Washington, one of the states affected by wildfires.
According to Cantwell “My colleagues no longer have to take it from me — the Government Accountability Office tells us climate change will cost taxpayers more than a half a trillion dollars this decade, and trillions more in the future unless we mitigate the impacts.”
“The Government Accountability Office — if you will, the chief bean counter — is basically telling us that this is costing us a lot of money,” Cantwell continued. “We need to understand that as stewards of the taxpayer that climate is a fiscal issue, and the fact that it’s having this big a fiscal impact on our federal budget needs to be dealt with.”
Susan Collins, the Senator for Maine, added: “Our government cannot afford to spend more than $300 billion each year in response to severe weather events that are connected to warming waters, which produce stronger hurricanes.”
“We cannot ignore the impact of climate change on our public health, our environment, and our economy,” Collins continued. “This nonpartisan GAO report Senator Cantwell and I requested contains astonishing numbers about the consequences of climate change for our economy and for the federal budget in particular.”
However, Robert Stavins, an economist at Harvard University, told the New York Times that he doubted the study would sway the climate denying President or the Republican climate deniers in Congress. He said: “The GAO study is conservative, it’s not alarmist, it’s realistic and balanced and they go out of their way to point out all of the uncertainties involved. I don’t see any likelihood it’s going to be taken seriously.”
Which makes you wonder, if Trump doesn’t believe the science of climate change, nor the economics, what will it take him to act? Maybe he never will, as the storms get worse in the East and fires increasingly burn in the West.