This article is from the In-Depth Report 400 PPM: What's Next for a Warming Planet
60-Second Earth

Who's Paying the Price for Global Warming?

U.S. taxpayers have so far borne the brunt of climate change costs. David Biello reports

Climate change is already melting the Arctic, queering weather and threatening food supplies. So who's paying the price for all these global warming impacts?

It might seem like insurers are most at risk. Indeed, insurers did pay out some $33 billion in climate-related damages last year in the U.S. alone.

But it turns out that bearing the brunt of climate change costs is you, the taxpayer.

A new analysis by the Natural Resources Defense Council, the NRDC, finds that the federal government spent three times more than the private insurance industry on climate change impacts last year. And, of course, those federal efforts are entirely funded by taxpayers.

“It is in effect a climate disruption tax, equivalent to a 2.7 percentage point increase in what Americans paid in sales taxes last year.” That’s Daniel Lashof, director of the NRDC’s Climate and Clean Air Program and co-author of the report.

We spent nearly $100 billion in 2012 on drought-related crop insurance, storms like Hurricane Sandy, floods and wildfires. By comparison the nation spent $95 billion on education last year and just $91 billion on transportation.

Greenhouse gas pollution shows no signs of slowing, recently touching 400 parts-per-million. And as that number continues to rise, so will the price.

—David Biello

[The above text is a transcript of this podcast.]

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