The effects of climate change are already costing the federal government hundreds of billions of dollars, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) found.
In a report released late Monday, the GAO tallied the total cost of disaster assistance and flood and crop insurance losses at $350 billion over the last decade, not including the most recent hurricanes and wildfires.
Climate change-linked phenomena like droughts, wildfires, flooding and storms are projected to dramatically increase those costs in the coming decades, possibly by as much as $35 billion per year by 2050, according to the GAO, the watchdog agency of Congress.
“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 GAO report concluded.
“By using such information, the federal government could take the initial step in establishing government-wide priorities to manage such risks.”
The report comes as the Trump administration works to repeal or weaken nearly every major policy the Obama administration implemented to fight climate change, including limits on carbon-dioxide emissions from power plants and the Paris climate agreement.
The GAO conducted its research between 2015 and this year at the request of Sens. Maria CantwellMaria Elaine CantwellDelta variant's spread hampers Labor Day air travel, industry recovery Wyden asks White House for details on jet fuel shortage amid wildfire season Air travel hits pandemic high MORE (D-Wash.) and Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsMcConnell privately urged GOP senators to oppose debt ceiling hike GOP senator will 'probably' vote for debt limit increase Welcome to ground zero of climate chaos MORE (R-Maine). Cantwell is the top Democrat on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, which has jurisdiction over major federal land and wildfire programs, as well as fossil fuel production on federal land and offshore.
“My colleagues no longer have to take it from me — the Government Accountability Office tells us climate change will cost taxpayers more than a half a trillion dollars this decade, and trillions more in the future unless we mitigate the impacts,” Cantwell said in a statement.
“We cannot ignore the impact of climate change on our public health, our environment, and our economy,” said Collins. “This nonpartisan GAO report Senator Cantwell and I requested contains astonishing numbers about the consequences of climate change for our economy and for the federal budget in particular.”
This story was updated at 2:17 p.m.