What Is Climate Change Costing Us?

BY ON April 11, 2013

View of Earth from above with very blue sky

The Third National Climate Assessment, written by 240 contributing scientists, and the result of a collaboration among 13 federal agencies, is a must-read, accessible document. Even though climate scientists are learning more every day about how quickly our world is changing because of global warming, the assessment is an importantbenchmark and provides critically important information to elected officials, policymakers, and citizens.

But there is something missing from the draft of the assessment:

THE BIG PICTURE COST OF CLIMATE CHANGE—that’s what it costs us to do nothing about it.

Anyone who wants to gather national support for fighting climate change must have this information on hand. And it is available.

We know that the health costs are rising. Climate change increases heat waves, causing more asthma-related emergencies. We know allergies are on the rise, as are diseases transmitted by insects. We know that floods, droughts, and severe storms harm everyone’s health—and the loss of homes and jobs takes a toll on Americans’ mental health as well.

DOING NOTHING IS NOT FREE. We will continue to pay more and more for doing nothing ambitious to fight global climate change.

Your insurance companies sure know this. That’s why they are taking climate change into account as they change their rates — or cancel insurance coverage completely. Your state and national treasuries know this; they’re paying more and more for disaster relief.

The report, which makes no policy recommendations, makes clear that climate change is an urgent problem. Its severe impacts are already being felt. We need ambitious global-scale plans to slow down climate change. And we need them fast.

Americans know that big solutions are expensive. Many of us lived through—and were awed by—America’s moonshot on July 20, 1969 when the Eagle, carrying Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, touched down in the Sea of Tranquility. Look at all the amazing ways that investment in our future changed the world.

America can afford to invest in a Climate Shot. We cannot afford greater climate catastrophe.

Tell the National Climate Assessment writers to include the COST OF CLIMATE CHANGE in their report. Americans must be given a clear picture of what we are up against.

Here’s the letter:

NCA comments to be submitted by members.

Subject: Please include a more complete assessment of the costs of climate change in the final 2013 NCA

Dear [Decision Maker],

I am writing today to request that the drafters of this year’s National Climate Assessment (NCA) more fully assess the tremendous economic burden of climate inaction.

The U.S. Government Accountability office recently warned that the climate crisis poses a significant financial risk to the federal government in four key areas:

1) Damage to federal property and infrastructure, and associated adaptation costs.

2) Rising costs for federal insurance programs.  For instance, the federal government’s crop insurance costs have increased from an average of $3.1 billion per year from 2000 through 2006 to an average of $7.6 billion per year from 2007 through 2012; and these costs are projected to increase further.

3) Costs related to providing assistance to state and local governments to respond to local climate impacts.

4) Rising costs of climate disaster relief.  For example, federal disaster declarations have increased over recent decades, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) obligated over $80 billion in assistance for disasters from 2004 through 2011.

I am disappointed that, rather than addressing these economic threats, the draft NCA merely laments the lack of sufficient cost information and states that “emerging areas of needed research include: Costs and Benefits of Adaptation. Methodologies to evaluate the relevant costs of adaptation costs, as well as the costs of inaction, need to be developed.”

The drafters of this year’s NCA should include currently available information on costs and inform the American public of the tremendous economic burden of climate inaction. Please update the NCA to include this information. In addition, please promptly begin filling in needed research gaps regarding the costs of adaptation so that this information can be included in the next installment of the NCA in 2017.




TOPICS: Activism, Clean Air Rules and Regulations, Climate Change, Heat and Extreme Weather, Politics, Pollution