change already costing government billions: GAO
By: Timothy Cama
The effects of climate change are already costing the federal
government hundreds of billions of dollars, the Government Accountability
Office (GAO) found.
In a report released late Monday, the GAO tallied
the total cost of disaster assistance and flood and crop insurance losses at $350
billion over the last decade, not including the most recent hurricanes and
Climate change-linked phenomena like droughts, wildfires,
flooding and storms are projected to dramatically increase those costs in the
coming decades, possibly by as much as $35 billion per year by 2050,
according to the GAO, the watchdog agency of Congress.
“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,” the GAO report concluded.
“By using such information, the federal government could take
the initial step in establishing government-wide priorities to manage such
The report comes as the Trump administration works to repeal or
weaken nearly every major policy the Obama administration implemented to fight
climate change, including limits on carbon-dioxide emissions from power
plants and the Paris climate agreement.
The GAO conducted its research between 2015 and this year
at the request of Sens. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine). Cantwell is the top
Democrat on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, which has
jurisdiction over major federal land and wildfire programs, as well as fossil
fuel production on federal land and offshore.
“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,” Cantwell said in a statement.
“We cannot ignore the impact of climate change on our public
health, our environment, and our economy,” said Collins. “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