The hidden costs of climate change to the US are nothing short of extreme. According to a new report, increasingly frequent or potent wildfires, hurricanes, floods, and droughts are hitting the American taxpayer with a bill of $240 billion each year.
This will rise to $360 billion in the next decade if mitigation efforts fail.
The study, authored by the non-profit Universal Ecological Fund, carefully analyzed the costs of both extreme weather events and the direct and indirect negative effects that using fossil fuels will have on human health.
According to the researchers, this is only a partial assessment, as many more climate change-based costs are not taken into account here. Additionally, the data used for this report also did not include the damage caused by the ongoing Atlantic hurricane season, which is thought to be record-breaking in terms of its combined economic cost.
This means that this report is a conservative estimate, and the real figure is likely to be somewhat higher yet. This year, for example, already has a bill of $300 billion, and that’s down to Hurricanes Irma, Harvey, and Maria – and those persistent wildfires – alone.
“That is double the $145 billion cost of all hurricanes in the last decade,” the authors note in a press release.
Burning fossil fuels are costly for multiple reasons, and not just through air pollution-related health disorders and stronger natural disasters. Increased temperatures make people sick, drive up healthcare costs, and slow down the economy, while climate change-exacerbated natural disasters don’t just destroy infrastructure and sink cities, they also eradicate agriculture, consume resources, and spread disease.
As a bonus, if you’re one of those few nations that don’t switch from fossil fuels to renewables, you are literally costing your country jobs and, once again, slowing down the economy. All in all, it’s expensive to not act on climate change and to be a climate denialist.