WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. taxpayers paid nearly $100 billion responding to damages caused by last year’s extreme weather events — drought, storms, floods, and wildfires — about $1,100 per taxpayer, according to an analysis by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). By paying nearly $100 billion, taxpayers — through the federal government — spent more on cleanup than on education or transportation, the analysis shows.
"While Congress debates the federal budget, our government is spending more responding to extreme weather made worse by climate change than we are to educate our kids or take care of our bridges and roads,” said Dan Lashof, co-author of the report and director of NRDC’s Climate and Clean Air Program. “In fact, this single-ticket expense now tops the list of non-defense discretionary federal spending. And taxpayers are shouldering more of the burden — they are spending three times more than private insurers to pay for recovery from climate damages.”
Although climate doesn’t show up as a line item in federal spending, the costs of what NRDC calls the “Climate Disruption Budget” equals one of every six dollars spent on non-defense discretionary programs, making it the largest such spending item, according to the NRDC report.
The insurance industry estimates that 2012 was the second most expensive in U.S. history for climate-related disasters, with damages totaling more than $139 billion. But private insurers only covered about 25 percent of the costs, leaving taxpayers to pay the bulk of the remaining costs — a ratio of about 3:1 in terms of costs borne by taxpayers versus insurers. This shift in liabilities began in earnest following the $72 billion bill to the insurance industry in 2005 from Hurricane Katrina, and has continued to grow since, the NRDC report shows.
“The fact that private insurers are leaving the table sends an unmistakable signal. It tells us that climate change risks are increasing and their costs to our society are climbing,” said Steyer.
NRDC’s climate disruption costs analysis is available at www.nrdc.org/globalwarming/taxpayer-climate-costs.asp.