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December 17, 2013

Climate Costs are real - Just Ask ExxonMobil

SmogThe extreme weather that has struck the United States over the last few years - record droughts, record storms, record temperatures, record wildfires, record floods - leaves no doubt that the threat of climate disruption has become a dangerous new reality. And the havoc wrought by these disasters is profound. As we’ve seen with Superstorm Sandy or Hurricane Katrina, it can take the places hit by extreme weather months and years to recover. Families’ stability has been shattered, neighborhoods have been devastated, and local economies have been crippled. Its happened in community after community, and - all too often - Americans have had to pick up the tab for climate disasters.

Take a look at the numbers -- they are stunning. Hurricane Katrina racked up $108 billion in property damage costs alone. Extreme weather last year cost Americans $140 billion. The costs of healthcare costs related to asthma and asthma attacks spurred by carbon pollution and smog are skyrocketing, currently at more than $50 billion a year and rising. Government spending related to climate disasters amounted to $100 billion in costs - about $1,100 per taxpayer. That’s real money coming out of our economy and out of the pockets of American families.

Its no wonder that vast majorities of Americans understand that climate disruption is happening - and those numbers are even higher in places where extreme weather has struck, like the drought-plagued Midwest.

People around the country aren’t the only ones taking notice of the cost of climate disruption. More than two dozen of the nation’s biggest corporations - including five major oil companies - recently announced that they are planning their future growth by accounting for the costs of climate disruption. In fact, they are expecting that they will have to pay a corresponding price for the carbon pollution they emit that makes our climate crisis worse and creates these costs for families in the first place.

It’s a critically important change in how some of the nation’s largest companies are perceiving of climate costs. ExxonMobil, ranked as the nation’s most profitable company last year and one of the biggest fossil fuel polluters around, is among those now recognizing the reality of climate disruption and seeing the calls for climate action resonating across the globe.

Earlier this year, the Obama administration proposed a new standard to help measure climate costs, estimating that each ton of climate-disrupting carbon pollution resulted in an average $37 in health, economic, and rebuilding costs. Yet, ExxonMobil’s estimate is almost double that amount.

That is clear evidence that the costs of climate disruption are real, and even fossil fuel companies know they aren’t immune from the effects of our climate crisis.

And its also a loud and clear signal from some of the companies that currently stuff the coffers of those Republicans who refuse to acknowledge there is even a climate crisis.

Taxpayers can’t afford any more Sandys, Irenes or Katrinas. Taxpayers can’t afford any more record droughts, temperatures, or storms. The real cost of climate is being recognized by industry -- its time our public leaders listened up.

--Liz Perera, Senior Washington Representative, Sierra Club

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