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Climate Change Inaction Price Tag Calculated for MT

October 29, 2009

BOZEMAN, Mont. - Get out the calculators. Economists are crunching numbers for Montanans today on the topic of climate change and its potential costs to consumers. Some think that doing nothing could cost Montanans a pretty penny.

Two economists have tallied up the costs of not taking action about climate change to compare them with well-publicized reports of how much it will cost consumers if Congress does take action.

Ernie Niemi, senior policy analyst at ECONorthwest and author of several reports about climate and the economy, says by 2020 the potential economic damage of inaction will be significant for Big Sky Country.

"Costs would range from about three percent of Montanans' income to about eight percent. That's about $1,200 to $3,400 per year, per household."

Niemi's report examined the cost of more intense fire seasons, higher cooling bills and higher costs for fossil fuels; his calculations did not take into account the effects of climate change on agriculture or insurance costs.

Opponents of the climate change bill now before the Senate claim it could cost consumers thousands per year if policies are put in place to reduce pollution associated with climate change. The Congressional Budget Office has estimated the cost to be around a one-half percent of household income.

According to Ray Rasker with Headwaters Economics, Bozeman, since much of the climate change discussion has been on a global scale, it's important to narrow the issue down and focus on it through the lens of family budgets.

"That's what matters. People need to know how it's going to affect their lives personally. That's when you're going to start seeing some action."

Rasker and Niemi will speak at the Bozeman Public Library Community Room. Their free presentation begins at 7 p.m.

Deb Courson, Public News Service - MT