Climate Change: The Fiscal Risks Facing The Federal Government/Overview


President Obama has said the Budget is “a roadmap to a future that embodies America’s values and aspirations.” Building and stewarding such a Budget over the long term requires a clear-eyed view of the challenges that put our aspirations at risk. No challenge poses a greater threat to future generations than climate change.

The Office of Management and Budget (OMB), in collaboration with the Council of Economic Advisers (CEA), recently embarked on an effort to assess what we can quantify today with regard to the fiscal risks posed by climate change for the Federal Government. To date, this effort has yielded two primary conclusions: first, that our current understanding of the fiscal risks of climate change is nascent, limited in scope, and subject to significant uncertainty; and second, that the evidence available thus far indicates the fiscal risks to the Federal Government could be very significant over the course of this century without ambitious action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) and adapt our communities to a changing climate.

This report outlines the contours of fiscal risk through five program-specific assessments: crop insurance, health care, wildfire suppression, hurricane-related disaster relief, and Federal facility flood risk. These programs were assessed because they are directly influenced by climate change, they have strong links to the Federal Budget, and quantitative scientific and economic models regarding the likely magnitude of impacts were available. This report also considers potential impacts to Federal revenues.