Inaction on climate change carries a big price tag, federal report finds

The Trump administration’s reluctance to confront climate change threatens to create a massive burden on taxpayers, as a lack of planning by federal agencies leaves the government ill-equipped to deal with the fallout from rising temperatures, according to independent congressional investigators.

The report released yesterday from the Government Accountability Office presents a bleak picture in which the economic costs of climate change spiral ever further upward in the coming decades. While the report finds that coordination among federal agencies in confronting climate change has long been inadequate, it now comes at a time when the White House is making an unprecedented retreat on environmental protection.

President Trump’s scrapping of an Obama-era requirement that federal agencies work together to prepare for warming, the report concludes, has left them with no concrete plan of action or indication if there will be one.

The report warns that the failure of federal agencies to work in unison in mitigating the impacts of global warming carries a big price tag. “The federal government does not have government-wide strategic planning efforts in place to help set clear priorities for managing significant climate risks before they become federal fiscal exposures,” the report said. “Given the potential magnitude of climate change and the lead time needed to adapt, preparing for these impacts now may reduce the need for far more costly steps in the decades to come.”

The extreme weather events of the past decade that scientists believe were exacerbated by climate change added more than $350 billion in costs to taxpayers, according to the report, a huge drain on the budget as funds were diverted to cover more disaster relief, crop and flood insurance, firefighting costs, and infrastructure and public lands repairs.

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