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Climate Change Will Cost Taxpayers Trillions, Warns US Accountability Agency

  • The study warns that climate-change costs will be

    The study warns that climate-change costs will be "high risk" if the current US administration continues to refuse to address the issue.  | Photo: Reuters

Published 24 October 2017

The audit agency examined 30 climate-change reports and interviewed 28 experts to assess environmental trends. 

The effects of climate change will cost U.S. taxpayers trillions of dollars, a new report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office warned Tuesday. The auditing body detailed grave economic repercussions for taxpayers and the economy in general if the Trump administration continues to deny climate change and overturn policies designed to protect the environment. 

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"The economic effects of climate change across U.S. sectors suggested that potential economic effects could be significant and unevenly distributed across sectors and regions," the report warned. 

The U.S. has spent more than US$350 billion on disaster-relief programs in the last decade, the report states. However, that amount does not include the three recent hurricanes or the wildfires that have ravaged California, estimated to be some of the most costly disasters in recent history. 

"Climate-related impacts, such as coastal-property damage, have already cost the federal government billions of dollars, and these costs will likely rise in the future," the report states. 

On Monday, the Senate approved a US$36.5 billion hurricane-relief package to help Puerto Rico recover from Hurricane Maria, which caused widespread damage across the Caribbean island. 

The report warns that recurring costs the federal government incurs as a result of climate change could increase by $12 billion to $35 billion per year by mid-century, and by $34 billion to $112 billion per year by late-century: the equivalent of $9 billion to $28 billion per year in today’s economy.

"The impacts and costs of extreme events — such as floods, drought, and other events — will increase in significance as what are considered rare events become more common and intense because of climate change," said the authors of the report, which examined 30 climate-change studies and interviewed 28 experts to monitor environmental trends.  

The South East region is expected to suffer the most, with rising sea-levels and damage to coastal property. In the North East, a surge in storms is predicted, while the Midwest and the Great Plains are expected to experience falls in crop production. 

The study was conducted at the request of US Senators Susan Collins and Maria Cantwell. "The chief bean-counter," Cantwell told the New York Times, "is basically telling us that this is costing us a lot of money... We need to understand, 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."  

The study concludes that climate-related costs will be "high risk" if the current US administration continues to refuse to address the issue. 

"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 authors warned. 

"By using such information, the federal government could take the initial step in establishing government-wide priorities to manage such risks."  

In September, Trump proposed eliminating funding for several climate projects, including the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which coordinates global climate research; the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, which forms the basis of international climate negotiations such as the Paris Agreement; the UN Green Climate Fund; and climate programs at the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development.

In June, the US president also pulled out from the Paris Climate Agreement, which aims to limit rising temperatures to 2°C (3.6°F) above pre-industrial levels and encourage the global adoption of sustainable growth practices. 

Screenshot from the report| teleSUR
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