Exhaust fumes from a car in London in December 2016. (Peter Nicholls/Reuters)

The March 18 front-page article “Regulators push Wall Street for disclosure on climate risks” noted that government statistics found 22 extreme weather events last year cost the nation nearly $100 billion. In fact, costs to businesses and especially federal taxpayers are far higher when all climate impacts are considered.  

For extreme weather events in 2017 alone, Congress appropriated $130 billion — or more than one-fifth of the entire federal nondefense discretionary budget that year. Yet under current congressional budget rules for “emergency spending,” none of this funding is counted toward annual deficits or required to be offset with new revenue. Thus, the many Republican members of Congress who deny the existence or extent of climate change blithely consign taxpayers to hundreds of billions of dollars in long-term debt while effectively hiding the true costs. And these totals do not include the hundreds of billions more in costs to businesses, workers, homeowners and citizens that the federal government doesn’t cover.

It is time for the government to come clean about the true annual costs of climate change to all segments of society, including taxpayers, with detailed annual reports on the topic required to be submitted to Congress by the appropriate federal agencies. Only then will the costs of climate change become clear and will full pressure be exerted on Congress to act to cut the greenhouse emissions that are the ultimate source of the problem.

Paul Bledsoe, Washington

The writer served on the White House Climate Change Task Force under

President Bill Clinton.

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