Natural disasters, such as hurricanes, tornadoes, wildfires, and blizzards, have cost taxpayers more than $350 billion over the last decade, according to a new Government Accountability Office report released Monday. The non-partisan federal watchdog noted that with the recent three major hurricanes and ongoing California wildfires, that figure will only increase.
The GAO’s report predicts that these costs could rise to $35 billion a year by 2050. It further points out that the federal government doesn’t effectively plan for climate-related costs.
According to the study:
“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. By using such information, the federal government could take the initial step in establishing government-wide priorities to manage such risks.”
Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine and Sen. Maria Cantwell of Washington, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, requested the study.
According to Collins, Maine is “inextricably linked to the environment. We are experiencing a real change in the sea life, which has serious implications for the livelihoods of many people across our state, including those who work in our iconic lobster industry.”
Thirty government and academic studies examining the national and regional impacts of climate change were reviewed in the report. Researchers also interviewed 28 experts familiar with the strengths and limitations of the studies, which rely on future projections of climate impacts to estimate future costs.
The fiscal impacts of climate change are likely to vary widely by region. Coastal property in the southeast could be swamped by storm surge and sea level rise, while areas further north on the coast also face the threat of storm surge and sea level rise, though to a somewhat lesser degree.
Ruined crops threaten the Midwest and Great Plains’ economies while the West is expected to see a dangerous uptick in drought, wildfires and deadly heatwaves.
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