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CLIMATE ACTION PROGRAMME


24 October 2017

New federal report implores the US Government to act on climate risks

A new report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO), US Congress’s auditing arm, warns the Trump administration to incorporate climate risks into its policies and formulate a response to climate change threats.

According to the report, different sectors of the economy in different parts of the country will be affected in ways that are difficult to predict.

The study is based on interviews with 26 scientific and economic experts and multiple academic paper reviews.

It focuses heavily on two national-scale studies which analyse the effects of climate change; i.e. one being conducted by the Environmental Protection Agency and the other led by the Rhodium Group that analyses the potential costs of climate change in coastal property, health, agriculture, energy, labor productivity and crime.

Although the report acknowledges that it is particularly challenging to accurately estimate the costs of disasters that are directly attributed to climate change, rising temperatures could cause losses in labor productivity of up to $150 billion, while changes in crop yields could cost up to $53 billion.

The Southwest of the US would suffer the most wildfires, the Southeast could experience the most heat-related deaths and the Northwest will most likely be the most affected by reduced shellfish harvests.

The report was jointly requested by Senators Maria Cantwell, Democrat of Washington and Susan Collins, Republican of Maine and it has been in the making for almost two years.

Ms. Cantwell said:  “The Government Accountability Office is basically telling us that this is costing us a lot of money”.

“We need to understand that as stewards of the taxpayer that climate is a fiscal issue, and the fact that it’s having this big a fiscal impact on our federal budget needs to be dealt with”.

The two Senators noted that the White House Office of Management and Budget had calculated that extreme weather events over the past decade have cost the Federal Government over $350 billion, without taking into consideration this year’s wildfires and three hurricanes which are expected to be among the most costly in US history.

Mr. Collins added: “My hope is the administration will take a look at this report and realize there is an economic impact here that is significant”.

“We simply cannot afford the billions of dollars in additional funding that’s going to be needed if we do not take into account the consequences of climate change”.

Trevor Houser, a partner at the Rhodium Group said that “climate change is a clear and present danger to the U.S. economy and the fiscal health of the U.S. government, and that risk is really unevenly spread” and that “it needs to be actively managed by the federal government”.

However, Robert N. Stavins expressed his doubts about whether the study will have an effect on the Republicans.

“The G.A.O. study is conservative, it’s not alarmist, it’s realistic and balanced and they go out of their way to point out all of the uncertainties involved”.

He added: “I don’t see any likelihood it’s going to be taken seriously”.

As reported by CBS News, although advanced copies were provided to the White House and the Environmental Protection Agency, the two bodies did not provide any comments. 

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