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No happy returns for US taxpayers as the bill for climate change comes due

By Todd Woody
USPublished Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

As Americans face today’s deadline for filing their income taxes, the bill for climate-change costs keeps rising.

And last year was a doozy, according to an analysis from Ceres, a Boston nonprofit that promotes green and socially-conscious business policies. Hurricane Sandy, which devastated parts of the East Coast, helped keep the National Flood Insurance Program in the red; it collects about $3.5 billion in annual premiums but has operated in deficit for four of the past eight years. The growing frequency of catastrophic storms is prompting private insurance companies to pull out of the flood insurance market, leaving the US government as the insurer of last resort. Sandy-related claims alone will probably hit $8 billion. So Americans can add $25 for each member of their families to their 2012 tax bill. (And that’s not counting the $50 billion in Sandy disaster relief that Congress approved in January – that will cost each American $150.)

Meanwhile, as drought turned swaths of the US into a dust bowl—64% of the country currently is in drought—the Federal Crop Insurance program paid out $16 billion to farmers. That’s triple the amount paid in 2010. That’ll cost each American $51.

The increasing frequency of wildfires—2012 ranked as the third-worst year for fires—means that the US Forest Service spent nearly half a billion more on fire suppression last year than it had budgeted.

State tax bills for climate-change related expenditures are also are spiking. Ceres says hurricane related liabilities have jumped 16-fold to more than $885 billion since 1990.

“Climate change is fundamentally changing the United States, and American taxpayers are paying a huge price for it,” Ceres president Mindy Lubber said in a statement.

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