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Abstract

Climate change is considered by many to be a complex, crosscutting issue that poses risks to many environmental and economic systems and presents a significant financial risk to the federal government. According to the National Research Council (NRC), although the exact details cannot be predicted with certainty, there is clear scientific understanding that climate change poses serious risks to human society and many of the physical and ecological systems upon which society depends.1 According to the United States Global Change Research Program (USGCRP), among other reported impacts, climate change could threaten coastal areas with rising sea levels, alter agricultural productivity, and increase the costs of severe weather events as these once “rare” events potentially become more common and intense due to climate change.

These impacts call attention to areas where government-wide action is needed to reduce fiscal exposure, because, among other roles, the federal government (1) leads a strategic plan that coordinates federal efforts and also informs state, local, and private-sector action; (2) owns or operates extensive infrastructure vulnerable to climate impacts, such as defense facilities and federal property; (3) insures property and crops vulnerable to climate effects; (4) provides data and technical assistance to federal, state, local, and private-sector decision makers responsible for managing the impacts of climate change on their activities; and (5) provides disaster relief aid. As a result, we added Limiting the Federal Government's Fiscal Exposure by Better Managing Climate Change Risks to the High-Risk List in 2013.

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