Climate change has cost the US government $350 billion since 2007 -- and that’s just the beginning

  • The US government has directly spent $350 billion since 2007 due to climate change, according to the Government Accountability Office.
  • These costs will rise exponentially with time, potentially hitting more than $100 billion yearly by the end of the century.

A US government watchdog has published a new tally for the cost of climate change in recent years that includes eye-popping estimates for the future: climate-linked disruptions could cost the United States $35 billion per year by 2050.

As the country reels from the devastation wrought by hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria, the report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) finds the federal government has "incurred direct costs of more than $350 billion because of extreme weather and fire events."

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U.S. President Donald Trump refers to amounts of temperature change as he announces his decision that the United States will withdraw from the landmark Paris Climate Agreement, in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, U.S., June 1, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 1: White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt, and Vice President Mike Pence clap as President Donald Trump speaks about the US role in the Paris climate change accord in the Rose Garden at the White House in Washington, DC on Thursday, June 01, 2017. (Photo by Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
U.S. President Donald Trump refers to amounts of temperature change as he announces his decision that the United States will withdraw from the landmark Paris Climate Agreement in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, U.S., June 1, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 1: White House chief strategist Stephen Bannon walks out after President Donald Trump speaks about the US role in the Paris climate change accord in the Rose Garden at the White House in Washington, DC on Thursday, June 01, 2017. (Photo by Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 1: President Donald Trump speaks about the US role in the Paris climate change accord in the Rose Garden at the White House in Washington, DC on Thursday, June 01, 2017. (Photo by Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 1: President Donald Trump points as he walks back to the Oval Office after speaking about the US role in the Paris climate change accord in the Rose Garden at the White House in Washington, DC on Thursday, June 01, 2017. (Photo by Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 1: President Donald Trump speaks about the US role in the Paris climate change accord in the Rose Garden at the White House in Washington, DC on Thursday, June 01, 2017. (Photo by Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 1: President Donald Trump points out after speaking about the US role in the Paris climate change accord in the Rose Garden at the White House in Washington, DC on Thursday, June 01, 2017. (Photo by Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
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That includes $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 areas, the report says.

The report notes the effects and costs of extreme events "will increase in significance as what are considered rare events become more common and intense because of climate change."

By 2050, the yearly cost of climate change to the federal government could rise by $12 billion to $35 billion per year, the report says, and that range would surge to $34 billion to $100 billion by the end of the century.

The GAO provides the following chart as a warning of the types of events the country could be grappling with by the year 2100:

rId16_image5GAO

So how is the federal government to respond? The GAO makes the rather meek recommendation that "the appropriate entities within the Executive Office of the President, including the Council on Environmental Quality, Office and Management and Budget, and Office of Science and Technology Policy, use information on the potential economic effects of climate change to help identify significant climate risks facing the federal government and craft appropriate federal responses."

It adds that "such responses could include establishing a strategy to identify, prioritize, and guide federal investments to enhance resilience against future disasters."

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