Climate change is already running up big bills for taxpayers, according to a new report from the Government Accountability Office. Over the last decade, “extreme weather and fire events have cost the federal government over $350 billion,” the GAO says, citing data from the Office of Management and Budget. Here’s how the costs break down: “$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.”
And the costs are only going higher, “as what are considered rare events become more common and intense because of climate change.” By 2050, climate change-related expenses for the federal government could hit $35 billion a year, and by the end of the century, the annual cost could reach $112 billion.
The GAO admits that its analysis can only be approximate, given the complexity of the climate and economic models involved. But massive hurricanes in the South and deadly wildfires in the West this fall suggest the agency’s warning about the increasing cost of climate change should be taken seriously. Congress is expected to pass a $36.5 billion hurricane relief bill this week to assist Puerto Rico and other storm-ravaged locations in the U.S., pushing federal spending on weather-related disasters over $50 billion in 2017.