BURLINGTON >> As Vermonters mark the fifth anniversary of Tropical Storm Irene, U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) pointed to a new report from the Congressional Budget Office that warns damage from severe weather in future decades is expected to become increasingly common in Vermont and throughout the United States because of climate change.
Tropical Storm Irene, which began as a hurricane in the Atlantic Ocean, was one of Vermont's worst natural disasters. The 2011 storm caused torrential flooding that caused the death of six people in the state, forced thousands from their homes and washed away hundreds of bridges and miles of roads.
"Just five years ago, no one thought a northern state like Vermont would be hit by such a strong tropical storm," Sanders said. "But that's what happened, and it caused tragic loss of life and nearly $1 billion in damage in our small state."
The new CBO report requested by Sanders and Sen. Patty Murray says that costs from hurricane damages in the United States are expected to increase 39 percent in the coming decades because of the effects of climate change. "This report confirms that Irene may have been the first such storm to hit Vermont, but it likely won't be the last," Sanders said.
By 2075, annual expected hurricane damages, as well as federal spending for relief and recovery, will likely increase by a third and could be nearly double what we spend today relative to the size of the economy. Annual expected hurricane damages for the United States is currently $28 billion, of which roughly $18 billion is covered by the federal government, according to the report. Roughly 45 percent of the increase is attributable to climate change and 55 percent to coastal development.
The report also found that, by 2075, 10 million Americans -- more than five times the share of Americans who are at risk today -- will live in areas that could face significant loss from hurricanes.
"Climate change is real, it is caused by human activity and it is already causing devastating harm. Extreme weather disasters like hurricanes will devastate communities and cost the American taxpayers billions of dollars," Sanders said.
"When it comes to addressing climate change, the most expensive option is to do nothing at all," Sanders said. "We have a financial and moral obligation to combat climate change. We must aggressively transition away from fossil fuels to energy efficiency and sustainable energy."