The Costs of Inaction: The Economic and Budgetary Consequences of Climate Change - Opening Statement of Chairman Murray

“This hearing will now come to order.

“I’d like to thank the Ranking Member, Senator Sessions, and all of our colleagues for joining us today.

“And I’d like to especially thank our witnesses for taking the time to be here.

“Today, we’ll hear from Mindy Lubber the president of Ceres, Inc. an organization that works with businesses, investors, and other groups on issues like climate change.

“Alfredo Gomez joins us from the Government Accountability Office, where he leads the Natural Resources and Environment division.

“Sherri Goodman is senior vice president and general counsel at CNA Corporation and she is also the former Deputy Undersecretary for Defense for Environmental Security.

“We also have Dr. David Montgomery. He’s a Senior Vice President for NERA Economic Consulting.

“And Dr. Bjorn Lomborg also joins us. He is the director of the Copenhagen Consensus Center.

“Again, thank you all for your time.

“It’s well established, from the overwhelming majority of climate scientists, that climate change is real.

“And, in fact, we are already seeing its negative effects in the United States today.

“Warming temperatures are disrupting weather patterns, causing sea levels to rise, and creating the conditions for destructive extreme weather events.

“But we’re not here to have a discussion on the settled science of climate change.

“Rather, today, we’ll be focusing on some consequences that haven’t received as much attention: The economic and fiscal impacts of climate change.

“This isn’t just an environmental issue. It also poses serious risks to our economy and the federal budget.

“And if we fail to address these threats, it will weaken economic growth and increase costs for the federal government.

“These costs are too important to ignore, and it’s time for the Budget Committee to begin to assess the damage climate change will have on our budget and economy.

“I know there are skeptics who don’t believe the climate is changing, or believe that addressing the issue will be too expensive in the short-term.

“But, what we’re hearing from a growing chorus of experts, including the White House Council of Economic Advisors, the Risky Business Project, former secretaries of the Treasury, as well as our witnesses today, is the costs of inaction will be far greater

“A recent report by the Risky Business Project found that climate change will have, ‘specific, measurable impacts on our nation’s current assets and ongoing economic activity.’                                                           

“It will increase risks and add costs for businesses, making it more difficult for them to succeed…which is something Mindy Lubber and her organization have been looking into for years. And I look forward to hearing more in her testimony about the risks to businesses and investors.

“Budget experts are also starting to see rising costs on the federal balance sheet. 

“Take disaster relief for example. Climate change is causing more destructive and costly extreme weather events—such as Hurricanes Sandy and Katrina. Those two disasters alone cost the federal government about $100 billion.

“The Government Accountability Office has been investigating the ways climate change would add costs for the federal government, and I know Mr. Gomez from GAO will discuss those findings in more detail during his testimony today.

“I think every member of this Committee should be worried about the vulnerability of our nation’s roads, bridges, and waterways due to rising sea levels and changing weather patterns. 

“In addition to the vulnerability of our infrastructure, U.S. military installations and operations are also threatened.

“Bases on the coast in my state and across the country face rising sea levels, and will need significant adaptation and mitigation measures to remain viable bases and meet their operational needs.

“Climate change will also disrupt vulnerable populations’ access to basic resources like food and water. 

“Because of this, the 2014 Quadrennial Defense Review identified effects of climate change as, ‘threat multipliers that will aggravate stressors abroad such as poverty, environmental degradation, political instability, and social tensions.’ 

“Climate change will increase the resources our military will need to meet these new challenges, maintain its readiness, and carry out its mission.

“So, Ms. Goodman, I’m looking forward to hearing more during your testimony about the findings in your organization’s report.

“Taken together, the impacts of climate change will have major implications for our nation’s economy and budget.

“Across federal, state, and local governments, it will further strain budgets that are already being stretched.

“And its threat to our economy and budget will only add to an already-challenging fiscal picture.

“While budget projections have improved significantly in the near-and-medium term, we still face serious long-term fiscal challenges.

“But, the added costs 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 impacts will get.

“Failing to act now will only make it more difficult to solve this problem later, and will force us to divert resources away from other priorities.

“So, let me be clear on this point. Anyone who, like me, wants to tackle our long-term fiscal challenges fairly and responsibly, needs also to worry about the impacts of climate change.

“There are those who say tackling climate change will cost too much.

“But given what we know about the consequences of a warming planet, inaction is far more costly.

“Curbing emissions to prevent the more severe impacts of climate change, and adapting to the impacts that we can’t avoid are our lowest cost options. 

“And if we want to fulfill our responsibility to leave behind both a strong and stable fiscal foundation, and a safe and healthy environment, for our children and our grandchildren—we need to move forward with those options now.

“I want to thank our witnesses again for coming today.

“And I’ll now turn to the Ranking Member, Senator Sessions for his opening remarks.”