By Christopher Burns, BDN Staff
Bangor Daily News news story
Maine Sen. Susan Collins on Tuesday warned that the federal government’s failure to take action on climate change will come at a high cost to U.S. taxpayers.
Her remarks, delivered on the Senate floor, come on the heels of an alarming report from the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office that found the federal government has spent more than $350 billion over the last decade on disaster assistance programs and losses from flood and crop insurance.
The report, requested by Collins, predicted that the annual cost associated with climate change could rise from $12 billion to $35 billion by 2050.
So far this year, the cost of severe wildfires burning in western states and Hurricanes Harvey, Maria and Irma that have struck the U.S. coast is estimated to exceed $300 billion, according to the Universal Ecological Fund.
“The federal government cannot afford the billions of dollars in additional funding that is going to be needed if we do not take into account and start acting on the serious consequences of climate change,” Collins said. “Spending more than $300 billion each year, in response to severe weather events that are connected to warming waters and producing strong hurricanes, is simply not a solution.”
Climate change also will have far reaching consequences for the Maine men and women who make a living along the coast, particularly those in Maine’s iconic lobster fishery, Collins said.
The Gulf of Maine is warming faster than 99 percent of the world’s bodies of saltwater, and that warming trend could mean smaller catches as lobsters move into deeper and colder waters. A recent study by the University of Maine Darling Marine Center and Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences found that baby lobsters may not be able to survive if temperatures in the gulf rise by an expected 5 degrees fahrenheit.
An influx of invasive green crabs, which thrive in warmer waters, have devastated shellfish off the Maine coast, Collins said.
“This change in the Maine waters could be detrimental to our state’s economy,” Collins said.
The Government Accountability Office called on the Trump administration to “identify significant climate risks and craft appropriate federal responses.”
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President Donald Trump has called climate change a hoax, and he has reversed course on a number of Obama-era climate change policies, including withdrawing from the Paris climate accord, disbanding an advisory panel on climate change and pulling the plug on the Clean Power Plan.