By Dan Lashof Via NRDC Switchboard
With all the debate on the federal budget in Congress, climate change rarely gets mentioned as a deficit driver. Yet dealing with climate disruption was one of the largest non-defense discretionary budget items in 2012. Indeed, as NRDC shows in Who Pays for Climate Change?, when all federal spending on last year’s droughts, storms, floods, and forest fires are added up, the U.S. Climate Disruption Budget was nearly $100 billion, equivalent to 16% of total non-defense discretionary spending in the federal budget—larger than any official spending category.
|2012 U.S. Federal Non-Defense Discretionary Budget
|Source CRS, BEA, OMB (Table 8.7), NRDC estimates|
|Education, training, employment and social services||$95|
|Housing assistance and other income security||$65|
|Veterans benefits and services||$57|
|Administration of Justice||$54|
|Natural Resources and Environment||$40|
|Science, Space and Technology||$29|
|Other Non-Defense Discretionary||$61|
|Total FY2012 Non-Defense Discretionary Spending||$616|
|Federal Climate Disruption Costs, CY2012 Impacts||$96|
That means that federal spending to deal with extreme weather made worse by climate change far exceeded total spending aimed at solving the problem. In fact, it was eight times EPA’s total budget and eight times total spending on energy.
Overall the insurance industry estimates that 2012 was the second costliest year in U.S. history for climate-related disasters, with over $139 billion in damages. But private insurers themselves only covered about 25% of these costs ($33 billion), leaving the federal government and its public insurance enterprises to pay for the majority of the remaining claims. As a result, the U.S. government paid more than three times as much as private insurers did for climate-related disasters in 2012.
That reflects a major shift in liabilities with respect to climate change away from private insurers to public alternatives that began in earnest following the $72 billion hit the industry took in 2005 from hurricane Katrina.
Federal spending related to climate disruption falls into two major categories: Storms and droughts.
Dan Lashof is director of NRDC's climate and clean air program.