Wildfires may cost the U.S. as much as $62.5 billion a year by 2050 as the effects of climate change worsen, argues an economic analysis released Tuesday.
Wildfires cost the U.S. government $1.7 billion in 2013, but that figure only includes firefighting. It doesn't take into account the loss of private property or timber, the loss of the ecosystem benefits forests provide, or the cost for rehabilitating burned forests. The economic loss caused by wildfires is 10 to 50 times higher than the suppression costs alone, argues a new paper from New York University School of Law's Institute for Policy Integrity, the Environmental Defense Fund, and the Natural Resources Defense Council.
While fighting wildfires is already expensive, costs are projected to rise as the climate changes and fires burn hotter, longer, and over more acres.
Economic damages, the paper's authors argue, should be taken into account when projecting future climate costs. Right now, they are not included in the so-called social cost of carbon figure that the Obama administration uses to evaluate the benefits of avoiding climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The paper argues it should be, along with a number of other costs that the three groups document as part of their Cost of Carbon effort.