- Thomas B. Shea/AFP/Getty Images
- The US government has directly spent $350 billion since 2007 on extremee weather and fire events, according to the Government Accountability Office. These costs are expected to rise exponentially because of climate change, 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 severe weather in recent years that includes eye-popping estimates for the future: Climate-linked disruptions could cost the US $35 billion a year by 2050.
As the country reels from the devastation wrought by the hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria, the report from the Government Accountability Office cites the US budget office in saying the federal government has “incurred direct costs of more than $350 billion because of extreme weather and fire events” since 2007.
That total contains $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 says the effects and costs of extreme weather events “will increase in significance as what are considered rare events become more common and intense because of climate change.”
By 2050, climate change could increase the federal government’s costs by $12 billion to $35 billion a year, the report says, and that range could 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:
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.”