published Sunday, May 19th, 2013

Climate costs: Extreme weather one of largest non-defense budget items

Repetitive Flood Loss Properties in the National Flood Insurance Program

Just in repetitive flood-zone losses alone, regional costs from 1978 through 2011 totaled more than $1.1 billion.

Alabama — 4,833 properties at $484 million

Georgia — 1,604 properties at $130.5 million

Tennessee — 1,077 properties at $64.6 million

North Carolina — 8,664 properties at $474 million

Source: Congressional Research Service

For all the talk in Congress about balancing the budget and trimming costs, climate change rarely gets a mention as a deficit driver.

Yet in 2012, it was one of the largest non-defense discretionary budget items, according to a recent study by the Natural Resources Defense Council.

And here’s the real shocker: U.S. taxpayers are outspending private insurers 3-to-1 to cover climate and extreme weather disruption costs, according to Dan Lashof, director of the NRDC’s Climate and Clean Air Program and Tom Steyer, founder of Farallon Capital Management.

When all federal spending on last year’s droughts, storms, floods and wildfires isadded up, the U.S. spent more than $96 billion. The federal government spent more taxpayer money on the consequences of 2012 extreme weather than on education ($95 billion) or transportation ($91 billion).

Yes, 2012 was a bad year. It was the year of Hurricane Sandy, which devastated the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic region in October. But, even with more than $139 billion in total damage, it was only the second costliest climate-related disaster year in U.S. history. The 2005 double whammies of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita still take the top spot.

But in these recent years, private insurers have been pulling away from the coasts and tornado-ripped states. In 2012 private insurers only covered about 25 percent of these costs ($33 billion), leaving the federal government and its public insurance enterprises to pay for the remaining claims. Uninsured losses stood at another $10 million.

Environmental groups and taxpayers aren’t the only ones noticing.

In February, the Congressional Research Service prepared a report for Congress on the National Flood Insurance Program.

Stressing that the full economic cost of Sandy won’t be known for years, the report notes that the storm “underscored the nation’s growing exposure to extreme weather events, sea-level rise and coastal flooding.”

In the immediate aftermath of Sandy, claims quickly exceeded the $4 billion in cash and the remaining borrowing authority from the Treasury Department. The Obama administration requested and Congress passed legislation increasing the flood insurance program’s debt ceiling from $20.7 billion to $30.4 billion — just to pay claims related to Sandy.

Those flood figures don’t include at all the costs of tornadoes, droughts and other ramifications of extreme weather. And there’s still much to play out with how much more extreme weather climate change may bring.

Just last week, the level of the most important heat-trapping gas in the atmosphere, carbon dioxide, passed a long-dreaded milestone. It reached a concentration not seen on the earth for millions of years. Scientists believe the rise is a harbinger of large changes in the climate and sea levels.

But there is a glimmer of hope here and there.

Another recent study has claimed the temperature rise forecast with that increasing amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere may not be as bad as previously feared. If that study holds up, perhaps climate change might be slow enough that society can better adapt.

What seems clear is that there still will have to be adaptation — in budgets as well as daily lives, though that’s still a little-discussed topic.

Instead of looking at climate needs and budgets, let alone carbon pollution cuts, Congress is still fixated on IRS slights to political groups.

Perhaps leaders will refocus after the next storm.

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dfreezy said...

Thank god there were so many groups that did hurricane relief during Sandy. Did anyone know that Occupy gave more relief and support than the American Red Cross during the superstorm?

May 19, 2013 at 7 a.m.
anticorp said...

Where’s the governmental report that suggests predictions were over stated. In fact every update says just the opposite. The recent report of reaching 400ppm of atmospheric co2 is being done so with restraint since the alarm was set for 385 degrees.

While the present administration has reversed the deficit/gdp and doomsday debt bomb, it will surely be overwhelmed in successive administrations by the “cost of responding” to sea level rise and loss of habitat for sustainability. Recall the “Grapes of Wrath.”

As we see insurers flee the obvious impact zones (coastal and tornado ally), new predictions of a loss of 20% of GDP (over 3 trillion/yr U.S. alone) by 2050, when a mere half of one percent could have mitigated this disaster for humanity and the planet as we know it. In fact we’re already beginning to smolder as estimates of how fast and how intense keep being [raised].

Corporate spin documents (like company tobacco scientists) shouldn’t be taken seriously by anyone. Our corrupted legislators know it’s nothing more than propaganda and no doubt provides the envelope for campaign loot.

It is time to assign blame and scream it in a growing crescendo. It is the big oil companies holding a gun to the heads of legislators.

Here is the problem. We are already on a death march if we don’t “reverse” our co2 use. Less than 2 degrees of climate warming and it is over for what we know as mankind’s dominance on planet earth and we are speeding toward it. The identified accessible fossil fuel reserves (oil and coal) are five times larger than our climate can absorb before we find ourselves in the same predicament as the proverbial [polar bears on melting ice]. So don’t tell me natural gas is the answer.

Does anyone doubt Big Oil does not intend to wring every penny out of their oil reserves. They paid good tax dollars identifying them.

We have to kill Big Oil as we know it. They are killing us.

May 19, 2013 at 8:16 a.m.
anticorp said...

Big oil, and the energy corporations like FP&L, Duke Energy and TVA are the enemy.

They are using their vast finances (from tax favoritism) to extract legislation preventing solutions. Solutions interfere with their profit stream and they value that over America and its people. Worse, they will kill any effort to set us on the right course as sure as they'd shoot it in the head.

Not only are the industry's corrupt practices in cahoots with the GOP costing us major dollars of our earnings, they are costing us our health and last and largest, they are costing us our future. It seems America is the worst culprit of all because we have the most wealth at risk if we do the right thing and weaken the fossil fuel industry to its bare essential contribution.

Is it surprising the third world or developing countries are eating our lunch at producing new energy usage, like solar (China and India)? Hong Kong just begun using a fleet of all electric sedans for taxis that go 190 miles on a charge (a five seater). The Volt goes 40, is a four seater and lugs around a charging engine. China is heavily subsidizing it while the fossil fuel lobby and so-called Conservatives are driving propaganda about Solyndra while protecting subsidies for their dirty death.

They are killers.

May 19, 2013 at 12:04 p.m.
conservative said...

Others have made the observation that the global warming kooks have changed to calling it climate change.

I have noticed they often no longer directly blame mankind nor do they admit any personal responsibility for "climate change."

If they really believed this nonsense wouldn't they at least tell everyone what they are doing to cause it?

May 19, 2013 at 2:53 p.m.
anticorp said...

I admit, as a human living in the post industrial age America I am contributing to [Global Warming].

All I have to say to ignorant slugs like you is you better get busy asking that imaginary white super man in the sky to forgive the mess you're making. The reality is you're a pig in paradise.

Your children will suffer (if they survive at all) for your willful ignorance.

May 19, 2013 at 4:11 p.m.
conservative said...

What are you doing personally to cause global warming?

May 19, 2013 at 4:40 p.m.
anticorp said...

Even though I drive a hybrid, cycle a lot and have improved the efficiency of my home I still am not carbon neutral.

There is little more I can do personally with the way our energy grid is dominated by "centralize electricity" and our world oriented for convenience and shipping of products via big box stores and mass marketing we are in a trap.

That is not to say I am doing nothing to mitigate co2 production. I am personally working on getting my community to acquire (my money too) a Photo Voltaic system for all our facility usage (395kw), less 10% for net metering, to replace our electricity from a gas fired electric plant.

There is so much more we could do with cooperation from Republicans and it would be a net positive for jobs as well as the ecosystem. Even the big energy companies could get on board and make huge profits, but they won't as long as they have a party to defend them in a government system that requires compromise to change.

May 19, 2013 at 6:42 p.m.
Easy123 said...


Keep posting! Love your insight!

May 19, 2013 at 6:43 p.m.
conservative said...

So aticorp, what are you doing to cause global warming?

May 19, 2013 at 8:18 p.m.
nucanuck said...

conservative, have you ever conserved anything that might benefit the planet?

May 20, 2013 at 3:09 a.m.
conservative said...


Now, that is a strange question coming from someone who has stated that he is consuming 2.3 earths.

May 20, 2013 at 7:24 a.m.
nucanuck said...

conservative continues to evade all questions. The mark of someone with no answers.

May 20, 2013 at 12:16 p.m.
conservative said...

Rut Roo, the sky according to the kooks might have stopped falling!

"Extreme global warming seen further away than previously thought" "OSLO (Reuters) - Extreme global warming is less likely in coming decades after a slowdown in the pace of temperature rises so far this century, an international team of scientists said on Sunday."

May 20, 2013 at 12:47 p.m.
conservative said...


There is no man made global warming and therefore there is no problem. There is not an answer for a non existent problem. I do not snap my fingers because there are no tigers around my area.

You believe man is causing global warming so what are you doing to cause global warming? Please be specific.

May 20, 2013 at 12:54 p.m.
NirvanaFallacy said...

So if there was no "climate change", then we wouldn't have had any droughts, hurricanes, floods, wildfires ....etc?

Also, lets say we as a country go 100% green, what about the rest of the world's pollution? We going to start dictating policies to China, India, Russia and any other non-green countries. If we reduce our CO2 emissions to zero does climate change end?

May 20, 2013 at 1:12 p.m.
nucanuck said...

conservative, the only way you can be in denial is through intellectual sloth. Grab the few crumbs the extreme outliers offer and continue to be a negative minion for humanity. I assume that you are childless or you would give a damn.

May 20, 2013 at 5:03 p.m.
conservative said...


Why do you Liberals always resort to insults when you can't defend your beliefs? Please, don't be a little man.

May 20, 2013 at 5:18 p.m.
anticorp said...

That is some better news from conservative. I ask for it and he delivered. It is really a slight reprieve by chance though and I'm grateful for what we can get.

We are going to need some luck to preserve a future for humanity with any semblance of what we now enjoy.

I view it as a positive that even a fossil fuel shill like conservative is capable of imbibing current events. It is about education. I didn't come to acceptance at first blush.

The complete article is not so rosy however and can be seen here:

May 20, 2013 at 5:47 p.m.
Easy123 said...


"There is no man made global warming and therefore there is no problem."

You're absolutely wrong. 97% of climate scientists disagree with your unlettered, ignorant, unresearched, incorrect opinion.

"You believe man is causing global warming so what are you doing to cause global warming? Please be specific."

Burning any type of fossil fuel: driving cars and airplanes, using electricity from coal-fired power plants, or heating our homes with oil or natural gas.

Deforestation is another significant source of greenhouse gases, because fewer trees means less carbon dioxide conversion to oxygen.

Increases in atmospheric methane: mostly from agricultural activities such as raising cattle and growing rice.

Increases in nitrous oxide: nylon and nitric acid production, fertilizers in agriculture, vehicle catalytic converters, and the burning of organic matter.

There is the answer to your question. Here are a few for you: how, in the face of the overwhelming evidence, can you deny man-made global warming? Where is you proof? You have made outlandish claims that go against the overwhelming consensus, yet you haven't provided even the slightest proof to support anything you say?

And I want specifics, you fool.

May 20, 2013 at 6:04 p.m.
NirvanaFallacy said...

I will ask again and this time assume that it has been proven with 100% certainty that man has caused global warming. So we as a country decide to spend trillions of dollars and go 100% green, but what about the rest of the world's pollution? Are we going to start dictating policies to China, India, Russia and any other non-green countries. Should we be willing to go to war with any country that is not green? How can the United States fix global warming if there are plenty of other countries polluting it up.

May 20, 2013 at 6:57 p.m.
Easy123 said...


"So we as a country decide to spend trillions of dollars and go 100% green, but what about the rest of the world's pollution?"

The United States of America is the second largest producer of CO2 emissions worldwide. China is number one. The United States emits as much CO2 as the next 5 countries combined (Russia, India, Japan, Germany, and Canada). While becoming 100% green will never happen for the United States, anything close to that would be a huge step in the right direction to stave off the ill effects of global warming.

"Are we going to start dictating policies to China, India, Russia and any other non-green countries."

The United States already has agreements with other countries that involve cap-and-trade deals and other emissions limitations.

"Should we be willing to go to war with any country that is not green?"

We've gone to war for a lot less, but I think that's an extremely drastic and unnecessary measure to take considering the immediate and long-term consequences of war.

"How can the United States fix global warming if there are plenty of other countries polluting it up."

We can fix the problem by taking care of our own emissions and pollution problems. And by expecting others to do the same. If we take the lead, others will surely follow. That's the way it's always worked.

May 20, 2013 at 7:59 p.m.
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