The High Cost of Doing Nothing: Americans Already are Paying Billions in a Climate Disruption Tax Amid Inaction on Climate Change

Fact Sheet
April 15, 2013

While policymakers in Washington debate what to do about climate change, it is already costing the American people tens of billions of dollars every year, and the costs are rising. In 2012, that price tag was especially high: Climate-related droughts, super storms, hurricanes, blizzards, heat waves, and wildfires in the United States killed 349 people and caused an estimated $139 billion in damages. Across the nation, more than 3,500 monthly weather records for heat, rain, and snow were shattered—a new, all-time high. While it is difficult to tie individual extreme weather events to climate change, the science is unequivocal: the growing accumulation of carbon pollution ringing our planet turbocharges what once were just natural disasters. Now, their intensity is increasingly man-made.

Last year, the costs of extreme weather in the United States totaled almost 1 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product—equal to roughly half of all the sales taxes states collected in 2012. That cost is, in effect, a “climate disruption tax,” equal to a 2.7 percentage point increase in what Americans paid in sales taxes last year.