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GAO: Federal Preparation for Climate Hazards Could Reduce Disaster Costs

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The Government Accountability Office said the U.S. government needs to plan and prepare for extreme weather events caused by climate change in order to significantly reduce its spending on disaster assistance.

In a report released Monday, the agency called for strong leadership and a cohesive, strategic approach to mitigate federal fiscal exposure to climate change.

GAO cited the U.S. Global Change Research Program and the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, which warned that the cost of disaster response and recovery efforts are projected to increase as extreme rainfall or drought become more frequent.

The government watchdog agency proposed establishing a national climate information system, assigning a federal entity to develop and update climate data, and building climate resilience into infrastructure and facility planning.

Lawmakers and federal agencies should review information on the potential economic effects of climate change so they can pinpoint significant risks and formulate better disaster responses, the agency added.

Government spending on disaster assistance amounted to $315 billion between its 2015 and 2021 fiscal years. GAO has petitioned since 2013 to limit federal fiscal exposure through enhanced climate resilience.