What Will Climate Change Cost Your City? A New Map Breaks It Down.

The Government Accountability Office breaks down the economic repercussions of climate change.

Last week, the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office (GAO) sounded the alarm on the economic impact of climate change. In a report release last month, the GAO says the Federal Government has spent $350 billion on disaster programs and losses in flood or crop insurance. Over the next few decades, those numbers are expected to keep growing.

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The map below, produced as a result of the GAO report, shows almost exclusively negative economic effects. Authors of the report used 30 different government and academic studies to make their estimates, according to The Chicago Tribune. In order to illustrate how climate change may change people's day to day lives, the report broke down regional impacts of climate change.

A map breaks down how the costs of climate change have hit the United States. Government Accountability Office

For example, in the Northwest, the acidification of the ocean is causing decreased shellfish harvests which in turn has a negative economic impact. The report estimates the harvests could decline by "32 to 48 percent by the end of the century in a scenario without emissions reductions." 

In the Southwest, more demand for water and less supply has caused an increased cost in this essential natural resource. Energy demands are up because of hotter days and longer summers. There have been more heat-related deaths. And, perhaps most importantly, "the study estimated that wildfires could burn an additional 1.9 million acres annually in the Rocky Mountains by the end of the century." 

In the Midwest and Great Plains, crop yields have been less than expected due to rising temperatures across the region. The Northeast and Southeast are mostly impacted by property damages due to increased flooding and unusually powerful hurricanes.

Notably, the report was completed before wildfires ravaged California and a series of hurricanes decimated the Gulf Coast region, accounting for some of the costliest natural disaster events in United States history.

Of course, there may be some positive effects — increased agricultural yields in the Northwest, for example — but they are far outnumbered by those that threaten the American economy.

Republican Sen. Susan Collins, who requested the study along with Sen. Maria Cantwell of Washington, responded to the report in a statement to The Chicago Tribune.

"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," Collins said. "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."

The GAO study concludes that the federal government has not properly planned for these effects and it's urgent for the government to address it quickly. Authors of the study wrote that the hope is the data contained in the study could "inform decision makers about significant potential damages in different U.S. sectors or regions."

"The federal government has not undertaken strategic government-wide planning to manage climate risks by using information on the potential economic effects of climate change to identify significant risks and craft appropriate federal responses," the study said. "By using such information, the federal government could take the initial step in establishing government-wide priorities to manage such risks."

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