Cantwell, Collins Release GAO Report Showing Climate Change Will Cost the Government Trillions of Dollars

This year alone, the economic cost of climate change to the U.S. will exceed $300 billion

GAO report reveals that by 2039, climate change will cost U.S. taxpayers more than $1 trillion 

Report underscores the need to act as soon as possible to mitigate the avoidable fiscal consequences for our economy and the federal budget

WASHINGTON, D.C. – In the wake of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, Maria, and Nate; the multi-year drought across the west; and the wildfires in the nine western states, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) published a new report requested by Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA), ranking member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, and Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) on the economic impacts of climate change. 

The final tally in economic losses from this year’s extreme weather events is not yet in but is expected to exceed $300 billion.  The new GAO report states that the number and intensity of these extreme weather events will rise, costing taxpayers more than $1 trillion by 2039. If hurricane and wildfire seasons continue in a similar pattern to 2017, costs will exceed $6 trillion in 20 years.

The report, Climate Change: Information on Potential Economic Effects Could Help Guide Federal Efforts to Reduce Fiscal Exposure, recommends that the federal government utilize available “information on the potential economic effects of climate change to help identify significant climate risks and craft appropriate federal responses – such as the establishment of a strategy to guide federal investment to enhance resilience against future disasters.” 

Preparing for and reducing the impacts of climate change, as well as improving access to climate information for businesses, governments, and communities, should be a priority for Congress.

“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." said Senator Cantwell. 

“We cannot ignore the impact of climate change on our public health, our environment, and our economy. 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. Our government cannot afford to spend more than $300 billion each year in response to severe weather events that are connected to warming waters, which produce stronger hurricanes,” said Senator Collins. “In Maine, our economy is inextricably linked to the environment.  We are experiencing a real change in the sea life, which has serious implications for the livelihoods of many people across our state, including those who work in our iconic lobster industry. I hope the release of this analysis will cause all of us to think more broadly about this issue, take a harder look at the economic consequences of inaction, and use what is known about climate risks to inform federal policy.” 
The full report can be found HERE