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Consumer Reports: As Earth Day arrives, the lifetime cost of climate change for a baby born in the U.S. in 2024 could be nearly $500,000

– New report conducted by ICF adds up the impact on consumer costs for housing, health, food, transportation, income


WASHINGTON, D.C. – With Earth Day coming up on April 22, Consumer Reports is looking at how climate change can affect consumers in terms of dollars and cents. 

The costs from climate change could add up to nearly $500,000 for a baby born in the U.S. in 2024 over their lifetime, when you consider the impact on their cost of living and income, if climate change continues to increase at its current pace. 

That’s according to a new study conducted by the global consulting firm ICF, which has performed hundreds of climate studies for businesses and governments over the past 40 years. The study found when more uncertain factors are included, the costs approach $1 million over the lifetime of an American born this year. 

Consumer Reports – the nonprofit consumer research, testing, and advocacy organization – asked ICF to perform this study to examine how shifts in temperatures and weather associated with climate change, such as heat waves, droughts, and floods, could impact the personal finances of a consumer over an 80-year lifetime.

The study considers the cost of housing, food, energy, healthcare, and transportation. It also looks at consumer spending power in terms of employment, income and taxes. 

Consumer Reports notes that the analysis by ICF is subject to several variables and uncertainties, such as where a person lives, how much money they will make, and the prospects for climate change to improve or worsen in the future.

Chris Harto, a senior policy analyst for Consumer Reports, said, “This is a unique study that aims to bring the discussion of climate issues to the level of an individual consumer. Most studies tend to look at how the climate broadly impacts the environment or the economy, which can be hard to relate to. This study conducted by ICF offers concrete examples of what the personal financial costs can be for us, and for our kids and grandkids.”

Alexandra Grose, a senior policy counsel for Consumer Reports, said, “As a new mother, I think a lot about what the future will look like for our son. The study really brings home what’s at stake, and why it’s important for us all to work together to address climate change. The effects can greatly impact the choices we have and the prices we pay to support our families, from home insurance to the food we feed our kids.”

Here are some of the findings from the study:

Housing: Extreme weather-related damage can significantly increase the cost of repairing, maintaining, and insuring a home. The study estimates climate change could lead to an increase in housing costs of $125,000 over the lifetime of a person born in 2024. 

Energy: Climate change is expected to increase the cost of heating and cooling a home. A rise in extreme weather conditions can also threaten power plants and other energy infrastructure, which could lead to expenses that companies pass onto their customers. The overall increase in lifetime energy expenses is an estimated $88,000. 

Food: A changing climate is expected to disrupt food systems, reduce access to food, and lead to higher food prices, driving up lifetime costs for a 2024-born American by an estimated $33,000.

Healthcare: Climate-connected health issues such as heat-related illnesses and respiratory problems could increase lifetime healthcare costs by $5,000.

Transportation: A surge in heavy rainfall and other weather patterns could lead to a rise in hazardous road conditions and vehicle crashes, which could increase a consumer’s lifetime costs to insure and maintain vehicles by an estimated $4,000. 

The study also looked at how climate change could reduce working hours and lower job prospects, especially in outdoor jobs like construction. Taxes may go up to pay to repair infrastructure, bolster insurance programs, and cover other expenses. Retirement income could decrease as corporate stocks are impacted by companies’ higher cooling costs, damages to assets and supply chains, and other factors. 

CR is working with consumers and policymakers to advance energy reform, such as reducing emissions from new vehicles, as well as improving the energy efficiency of washers, dryers, and other home appliances. These changes can reduce consumer costs, while helping improve the environment and public health. 

This report was conducted by ICF and commissioned by CR with support from Breakthrough Energy.  The full report is available here, and a CR story about the report is here.


How to Lower Your Energy Bills Right Now

With housing-related expenses accounting for the biggest share of cost-of-living expenses, Consumer Reports is offering practical advice for people to take around the house to lower energy bills.  These steps include quick do-it-yourself projects, smart swaps for more efficient appliances, and using the tax incentives and other benefits now available to consumers who want a more energy-efficient home. Learn more from new CR stories here and here.

“There are many ways to save energy and save money around the house,” said Shanika Whitehurst, associate director of product sustainability, research and testing at Consumer Reports. “We show you how to make simple changes, like plugging up air leaks and installing a smart thermostat.  Plus, there are cash-back rebates for things like replacing your water heater and weatherproofing your house under a new law called the Inflation Reduction Act. These are the kinds of things that can really help lower your expenses, and at the same time, lower your carbon footprint.” 

CR also offers its members recommendations for how to shop for homeowners insurance that offers protections from weather events.


Contact: Emily Akpan at emily.akpan@consumer.org or David Butler at david.butler@consumer.org