The Government Accountability Office (GAO) delivered the yearly update of the High-Risk Series report to Congress this week, which officially elevated the threat of climate change. The report contains the greatest threats the government faces in carrying out federal programs, and the GAO is responsible for identifying items such as flaws in the defense contracting process and health care program fraud.
This year the GAO believed it had to highlight the risk from climate change despite some members of Congress’ dismissal or outright denial of climate change. Regardless if some in Congress do not like the move, the GAO is supported by the information coming from the National Academy of Sciences and even from the federal government’s own global change research program. The GAO did, however, sidestep the issue of what is causing climate change. Instead they focus on urging lawmakers to prepare, and most of all, budget for more disasters.
The number of disasters in 2012 was above 90, a record number. The federal government’s exposure to the increasing number of disasters from extreme weather brought about by climate change includes owning hundreds of thousands of buildings, the operation of defense installations, financial disaster assistance to local governments, and managing crop and flood insurance programs.
Even if the lawmakers cannot agree on climate change, the fact is that a wide variety of disasters are on the increase and Congress has not planned or budgeted for them. The time for ignoring the issue is past. Hopefully Congress will heed the warnings and begin addressing our country’s part of climate change in a meaningful way. If they do not, the issue may be taken out of their hands. President Obama said in this week’s State of the Union address that, “I urge this Congress to get together, pursue a bipartisan, market-based solution to climate change, like the one John McCain and Joe Lieberman worked on together a few years ago. But if Congress won’t act soon to protect future generations, I will.”