Ignoring climate change could cost USA billions

By RTCC Staff

Ignoring climate change risk now will cost the US in the long run according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) administrator.

Speaking during the National Leadership Speaker Series on Resilience and Security in the 21st Century, FEMA’s Craig Fugate warned that climate change and its effects are not going away and must be considered and planned for now.

Flooding in the city of Minot in 2011 left over 4,000 home inundated by water (© DVIDSHUB / creative commons)

“$18 billion was the money spent [on emergency services] during the hurricane season in 2005 alone,” he said.

“We cannot afford to continue to respond to disasters and deal with the consequences under the current model. Risk that is not mitigated, that is not considered in return on investment calculations, often time steps up false economies.”

“We will reach a point when we can no longer subsidise this.”

He said ignoring the current and future effects of climate change would fail to take into account the true cost into decisions.

Fugate also stressed the need to communicate the risks the USA faces.

“We don’t do a good job of communicating what we know [about how climate change will affect our communities,]” he said.

“When I talk about climate resilience, I am talking about how we need to forcefully communicate the risk we face in not building resilience to climate change at the local level, which might not have been in anyone’s experience previously.”

This speech follows a second study published in Nature Climate Change last month, which looked at the climate change impacts on New York City.

While the city’s location ensures it avoids the annual US hurricane season, the study noted New York could soon find itself at risk from extreme flooding.

A report commissioned last year by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority found similar results.

Another study released last year – published in the journal Health Affairs – also looked to calculate the costs of climate change on the US.

This report found that floods, droughts and other disasters associated with the changing climate had cost the US health service more than $14 billion over the last decade.

Fugate stressed that ignoring the effects of climate change until a disaster has already happened is not a sustainable or cost-effective strategy moving forward.

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