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

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

Click HERE to watch Senator Collins’ floor remarks on the GAO report
Note to assignment editors and news directors: Click HERE for high-quality video of Senator Collins’ floor remarks on the GAO report

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 Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Maria Cantwell (D-WA) on the economic impacts of climate change. Senator Collins spoke on the Senate floor this morning about the report.

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.

“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.”

“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.

In 2007, Senator Collins and former Senator Joe Lieberman commissioned a report by the GAO to examine the fiscal risk of climate change for the National Flood Insurance Program and the Federal Crop Insurance Corporation. The report found the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Homeland Security can and should do a better job of assessing the fiscal impacts of unchecked global warming. Additionally, the report revealed that insurance programs had not developed a long-term strategy to deal with the effects of global climate change, putting them far behind private insurers that have incorporated these risks into their overall assessments.

The GAO’s report can be found HERE.