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GAO, Democratic Leaders: National Climate Information System Could Better Help Officials Plan for Extreme Weather Events, Prevent Billions in Damages

Dec 8, 2015
Press Release
Nonpartisan Report Confirms Stronger Action Needed to Help Federal, State, and Local Decision Makers Effectively Utilize Latest Climate Data

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) confirmed that, in the face of global climate change, more can be done in the United States to share useful climate data so that leaders at the federal, state, and local level, as well as those in the private sector, can better prepare for future extreme weather events and prevent billions of dollars in damages.  

In the report requested by House Energy and Commerce Ranking Member Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), Senate Energy and Natural Resources Ranking Member Maria Cantwell (D-WA), and Congressman Matt Cartwright (D-PA), the nonpartisan agency recommended that a national climate information system be created to “help decision makers access, translate, and use climate information in planning.”  

GAO noted that extreme weather events over the last decade have cost the federal government over $300 billion.  As these events become increasingly common and more intense due to climate change, costs are also expected to grow.  A focused, streamlined national climate information system, like those in Germany, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom, would help to more effectively disseminate critical, timely information and allow decision makers to make the necessary investments in modernization and resilience. 

“Extreme weather events like Superstorm Sandy have shown us firsthand the devastating costs of climate change on people’s lives, the environment, and our economy,” said Rep. Pallone.  “This report makes clear that, while important steps are already being taken to adapt to our changing climate, more needs to be done to ensure that our leaders at all levels have the tools and information they need to prepare for the coming changes and mitigate damages down the road.”

“Climate inaction is costing taxpayers money at all levels,” Sen. Cantwell, Ranking Member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee said. “Good information should be available to decision makers at the local, state and federal levels, so to better prepare for the impacts of climate change.”

“The GAO has already recognized the risks associated with extreme weather events by adding severe weather threats to its 2013 and 2015 High Risk Lists, which outline the most pressing fiscal exposures faced by the federal government,” said Rep. Cartwright.  “While federal coordination efforts have been improving over the past two years we still have a long way to go to adequately prepare for the threats posed by extreme weather events.  To confront this issue, I’ve introduced the PREPARE Act; this zero-cost bill requires the federal government to better coordinate their efforts and form comprehensive plans to address the threat posed by extreme weather events.”

The release of this report comes after House and Senate Republicans continued their partisan efforts to undermine efforts by the United States to lead the international community in taking serious steps to address global climate change by reducing carbon emissions. 
A copy of the full report is available here