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What’s the price tag on global warming?

Some members of Congress and the White House are focusing on the potential effects of global warming through a lens they haven’t used much before—dollar

Some members of Congress and the White House are focusing on the potential effects of global warming through a lens they haven’t used much before—dollar signs.

Senators on the Budget Committee gathered Tuesday to consider the fiscal impact of failing to stop climate change, and Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., ranking member on the panel, declared it actually was the first time the issue had been gauged through a monetary framework.

The hearing, titled “The Cost of Inaction,” compared the economic and budgetary expenses of responding to climate change with the costs of waiting until after there’s a more measureable temperature change.

“The impacts of climate change will have major implications for our nation’s economy and our budget,” said Chairman Patty Murray, D-Wash. “The added cost of climate change impacts are not adequately accounted for in current long-term budget outlooks and the longer we wait to address climate change the worse its impact will get.”

According to Alfredo Gomez, the director of natural resources and environment for the Government Accountability Office, there are 555,000 facilities and other possessions at risk to extreme weather triggered by global warming. He told the committee the property in jeopardy comes to roughly $850 billion.  

The hearing came on the heels of a White House report released earlier in the day that found inaction could raise climate costs by 40 percent if the global temperature increases 3 degrees Celsius. It also put a huge price tag on waiting: about $150 billion a year.

The report from the President's Council of Economic Advisers added that the costs were not a one-time thing, “they are incurred year after year because of the permanent damage caused by additional climate change resulting from the delay," it read.

The costs, according to the report, would largely stem from increased severe weather damage, an anticipated decrease in crop yields and the money needed to create programs to fight global warming.

Although there is still uncertainty regarding the full impact of climate change and when the effects will be obvious, the White House is sticking to its position that there is no reason not to take action now to curb global warming.

The justification for early action comes down to this, according to the White House: Once climate change is clear and measurable, trying to reverse its effects will be much more expensive.  

The White House pushed similar arguments earlier this year when it recommended controversial carbon emissions limits for power plants to the Environmental Protection Agency.

But, of course, this is Washington, and not everybody is convinced it’s a good bet to spend money now in hopes it will stop something from occurring later.

Sen. Sessions said the debate comes down to the cost of action versus the cost of inaction.

“Inaction costs may be real but certainly they are distant and uncertain. But the costs of action right now are certain,” he said.  “These are indisputable costs right now, the economy is not healthy—we cannot hammer this economy with any unnecessary costs.”

Still, there also are members who believe climate change is a bunch of ……. well, let’s just say they don’t believe it’s real ….. no matter which lens they look through.

Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., is one of them. On Monday, he blocked Senate Democrats from passing a resolution to acknowledge that climate change is a reality, calling it the “biggest hoax.”

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