Sandy, Other 2012 Events Cost Health Care $10 Billion, NRDC Says

(Bloomberg) -- Can we put price tag on the health costs of climate change? The Natural Resources Defense Council has released a new analysis that it says can provide the framework for doing so.

The environmental advocacy group estimates that Superstorm Sandy, which wreaked havoc in the Northeast, and nine other events it says were linked to climate change in 2012 cost the U.S. health-care system about $10 billion. Other incidents included in the study done with the the University of California San Francisco include a resurgence in mosquito-borne West Nile virus in Texas and a record-breaking heat wave in Wisconsin.

Researchers said in the report that the number could reach as high as $25 billion if they included “all possible sources of variability” for a health impact. For example, the $10 billion estimate only included the mental health impact from Sandy while not including such costs for other disasters included in the case studies like the wildfires that swept Colorado and Washington that year.

Sandy, Other 2012 Events Cost Health Care $10 Billion, NRDC Says

The group’s study released Wednesday comes as Wall Street analysts are calculating their own estimates of how much climate change is costing in terms of health care. Earlier this summer, a Morgan Stanley analyst estimated that global warming could drive up demand for vaccines for infectious disease by as much as $200 billion.

The NRDC and the University analyzed 900 deaths, tens of thousands of emergency room visits and hospitalizations to reach their estimates but were limited to cases were there was “adequate documentation” of health effects.

Medicare picked up the tab for roughly half the expected costs of lives losts. The elderly and disadvantaged Americans were among those most likely to suffer ill health effects.

With a price tag in the billions “ambitious actions to mitigate climate change and adapt to its unavoidable impacts can help to avoid unprecedented human suffering and major health-related costs,” the authors concluded in the study published in GeoHealth.

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