- The non-partisan Government Accountability Office says extreme weather events have cost the US government more than $350 billion over the last 10 years.
- The coming effects of climate change will hurt some areas of the US more than others.
- The GAO says the Southeast, Midwest and Great Plains will be especially hard-hit as storms batter the coasts and high temperatures hurt crop yields.
Climate change is really expensive.
That’s the takeaway from the non-partisan Government Accountability Office’s new report, released Tuesday. The GAO found that over the past 10 years, extreme weather and fires have cost the US government over $350 billion dollars. And the analysts suggest those costs are only going to get worse — by later this century, they estimate the federal government could spend up to $112 billion per year on climate-related costs.
Across the country, higher temperatures are expected to lead to more deaths, fewer workable hours, and greater energy production demands.
But it’s not bad news for every region of the country — some farmers could even stand to gain from the weather changes.
This map shows the economic changes that the GAO expects various regions of the US will see (assuming we don’t reduce emissions any more beyond current levels):
US Government Accountability Office
By 2100, according to the GAO, there will likely be…
Fewer fish to catch in the Pacific Northwest.
Oceans pH levels are decreasing around the world as more carbon dioxide gets absorbed into the waters. In the Pacific Northwest, that could cause shellfish harvests to drop by 32-48%.
More Rocky Mountain blazes.
An additional 1.9 million acres of land could burn every year by the end of the century in the Rocky Mountains, drastically increasing the $34 billion the US government spent over the past decade on wildland fire management. The average wildfire season in the west is already lasting two and a half months longer on average than it did in the early 1970s, according to WXshift, a project of Climate Central.
Some farmers winning, while others lose.
Crop yields in the south could suffer major losses due to extreme heat, while in the north, longer, warmer growing seasons could help farmers make more money. Vermont, for example, could stand to increase its economic output by .8 to 4.5% a year, while Florida could lose 10.1 to 24% of its current annual economic output. Additionally, elevated levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere could lower the protein content in crops like rice, wheat, and barley, making them less nutritious.
A more temperate climate that could save some lives.
Those living in the frigid corners of the country may see a benefit to rising global temperatures: fewer people will die in the cold. This could save lives in states like Oregon, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, which have some of the highest rates of fatal hypothermia, according to the CDC. However, nationwide many more people will die from stifling extreme heat waves and bad air.
Coastal property owners taking a hit, especially in the southeast.
People who live and work on the coasts will spend $4 billion to $6 billion annually on property damages alone as sea levels rise and more intense storms hit the shores. After 2040, those costs could rise significantly, the GAO cautions. In Tampa Bay, Florida, for example, the damage to coastal property could amount to $2.8 billion a year by 2100.
Cost estimates from 2017’s powerful hurricanes are already beating those government estimates by wide margins, though. One disaster modeler put the destruction from Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico at $30 billion. Hurricane Irma could cost Americans $50 billion, and damages from Hurricane Harvey are estimated to be somewhere between $75 billion and $160 billion.