Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Damage from Hurricane Irma, Harvey Add to Growing U.S. Costs of Climate Change

Government watchdogs have been warning about the financial risks of climate change, from extreme storms to wildfires, and their impact on the U.S. budget.

Hurricane Irma's powerful storm surge flooded businesses and homes and damaged infrastructure along the Florida coast. (Credit: Spencer Platt/Getty Images) Click to Enlarge.
First Harvey, then Irma, and the hurricane season isn't over.  This is the year that repeated, dire predictions about the fiscal risks of climate change—its increasingly heavy burden on the federal budget—are coming true.

The hurricanes' successive blows may cost taxpayers more than they spent on relief and recovery in any previous year.  And that doesn't factor in the price for this year's other disasters—heat waves, droughts, fires, and floods—that are among the hallmarks of global warming.

"The magnitude of the damage is getting bigger," said Adam Rose, a research professor with the University of Southern California's Price School of Public Policy and an expert in the economics of natural disasters.  "What does it mean for the federal treasury?  It means we're likely to see a greater burden on federal and state governments to help people.  You can't just leave people who've suffered a disaster.  You can't abandon them."

For the past decade, the government's fiscal watchdogs have warned that these costs were bound to increase as the effects of climate change arrive.

They included the Government Accountability Office (GAO), which put climate's fiscal impacts on its "high risk" list a few years ago; the Office of Management and Budget, which at the end of the Obama administration spelled out the mounting problem and warned that a comprehensive approach was needed to soften the blow; and the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), which focused specifically in 2016 on the mounting risks of hurricanes.

Read more at Damage from Hurricane Irma, Harvey Add to Growing U.S. Costs of Climate Change

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