Climate groups put a monetary number to inaction

A coalition of advocacy organizations demanding bold steps by the US government to combat the climate emergency launched an online ticker Thursday that shows “the cost of inaction.”

The ticker, currently set at $50.5 billion and constantly climbing, comes as legislation to deliver on some of President Joe Biden’s climate pledges was passed last year by Democrats in the US House of Representatives but has since stalled in the evenly split Senate.

The Climate Action Campaign (CAC) and other groups behind the project rely on data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration detailing recent weather and climate disasters for which the overall damage costs hit or surpassed $1 billion.

As the CAC’s ticker webpage explains:

Using the average cost of billion-dollar events to the United States in the last five years, it is estimated that we will continue to see nearly $150 billion worth of damage every year on average due to extreme weather unless Congress acts to pass $555 billion climate investments included in the Build Back Better framework to help communities better manage growing climate risks. These investments will provide much-needed action that helps communities reduce impacts of extreme weather events and delivers jobs, justice, and clean energy for Americans.

While it is impossible to predict the precise toll extreme weather fueled by climate change will exact on Americans in the coming year, $148.4 billion represents our best estimate based on current trends. Billion-dollar weather events occur sporadically throughout the year, many Americans are experiencing environmental trauma daily as they continue to recover from past damage while preparing for impending climate disasters. To represent this omnipresent threat of climate or weather disaster, we will represent the estimated annual cost on a per second basis—$4,705.73/second.

In addition to the national estimate for 2022, the groups have made an interactive state map.

“In 2021, the United States experienced 20 billion-dollar plus disasters, the second-highest of all time,” CAC campaign director Margie Alt noted Thursday. “Every second the Senate delays action on bold climate investments, the cost of inaction only increases.”

Highlighting the House vote last year, Alt added that “climate can’t wait, our families’ health can’t wait, our communities can’t, and Congress must work with President Biden to deliver on urgent climate action.”

While CAC is made up of a dozen national groups as well as several other allies and partners, the cost of inaction effort is led by the Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments, Change the Chamber*Lobby for Climate, Dream Corps Green for All, Earthjustice , Environment America, Michigan Clinicians for Climate Action, National Wildlife Federation, Poder Latinx, Sierra Club, Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, and United Women in Faith.

According to Abigail Waldron, youth climate fellow at Change the Chamber*Lobby for Climate, “CAC’s Cost of Inaction Ticker is an effective way to show people and quickly make the case about the need to urgently act on climate.”

Bolstered by scientists’ warnings—including those from the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report—other campaigners from involved groups captured that urgency in statements Thursday.

“As our leaders fail to act with the urgency science requires, the climate crisis is endangering families and communities across the country,” warned Liz Perera, Sierra Club’s senior director of climate policy and federal relationships.

“With bold investments in climate action and clean energy,” she said, “we can build a better future for every single one of us, cutting dangerous pollution and costs while creating good-paying jobs for millions.”

Noting that the climate emergency disproportionately impacts communities of color, Yadira Sanchez, executive director of Poder Latinx, declared that “with the cost of inaction continuing to climb, we need bold solutions and investments in climate, clean energy, and environmental justice. Our leaders must work together to get climate done now.”

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