Project Report:
Climate Cost Data and Documentary Project
- Investigates the causes of economic imbalances.
- Investigates causes tending to destroy or impair the free-market system.
- Explores and develops market-based solutions.


The Climate Cost Project is a data and documentary project to help uncover, understand, and visualize the costs of climate change to American communities. It accomplishes this through the Witnessing Change Video Competition and the Climate Impact Census. The project’s goal is to focus attention toward the local and the present, with multimedia testimony and imagery that illustrate how climate change is already shaping the lives of Americans, and crowd sourced data on economic costs. The project sheds a light on the climate changes that are happing in the United States now, and aims to motivate communities to take positive action to build resilience and mitigate the effects of climate change.



The Witnessing Change Video Competition challenges student and adult documentarians to create a personal and visual record of the way climate change is already impacting their communities. Participants tell the stories of local climate change in short video format. Winners receive cash prizes.

Over the upcoming years, Witnessing Change documentarians will help people in affected communities and around the country learn about the current effects of climate change, and allow them to share their experiences with the world.

You can watch the 2017 winning videos on our Facebook page, on Lyme Disease (college winner) and Skiing in the Adirondacks (high schools winner


At present, there is little information on how climate impacts are financially affecting cities and the American public. Cost data is limited to impersonal aggregate statistics on natural disasters from government expenditures and insurance data. These exclude many costs, from out of pocket health expenses on climate-related illnesses and extreme weather events, to uninsured damages from natural disasters, to municipal expenditures on water systems, public health, and infrastructure.

To address these gaps in data, the Climate Cost Project launched the Climate Impact Census in November of 2017. The Census is an online data portal and tool for measuring the current economic impact of climate change to individuals and local governments. It is designed to survey uninsured costs and expenses that may be related to climate change but not yet identified as such. For municipalities, these might be ‘unreimbursed costs’ that federal and state programs or emergency management funds do not cover, leaving taxes or municipal bond issuances the only way for a city to address increasing climate change burdens. For individuals these costs can include but are not limited to lost work, under or uninsured health care costs, and property damages. The CIC is recording these costs to increase public awareness and enhance the ability of cities to understand, manage, communicate about, and adapt to the changes that they are experiencing.

The Census is currently supporting surveys of costs from municipal managers, as well as the costs of flooding and tick-borne illness to individuals. The Climate Impact Census’s goal in making this data available from the portal is to allow researchers, government planners, and civil society members to have a better understanding of what immediate climate impacts are, and how they are financially impacting different regions of the United States. After the portal has been demonstrated for flooding, tick-borne illness, and municipal impacts, the Project plans to expand the number of impacts covered through additional surveys.

Frame shot movie Lyme Disease Video Winner
Frame from winning college student video. The student spends $2,000 a month on medical costs from the disease.


The project focuses on getting estimates for externalities of carbon pollution through collecting data on the economic costs of climate change. These costs impact the productivity and functioning of the market economy in multiple ways, including damages to natural, social, and physical capital stocks; strains on local, state, and federal budgets through disaster relief needs; supply chain interferences; and health care costs. These un-priced carbon externalities artificially subsidize high polluting energy sources. In terms of exploring and developing market-based solutions to climate change, estimates of climate costs gathered through this project can be used both in research and advocacy to inform appropriate carbon tax levels, which are currently considered to be significantly underestimated by most experts.


The scope is national.

Information Dissemination

Results of the Witnessing Change Video Competition are disseminated on the Climate Cost Project's social media, the Climate Cost Project's website, and websites of partnering organizations. Data summaries and visualizations will be created from data collected through the CIC portal using an interactive user interface.

Project Link

Amount Approved
$35,000.00 on 4/25/2017 (Check sent: 5/11/2017)

Logo Climate Cost Project

Logo Climate Cost Project
Frame shot movie Lyme Disease Video Winner

1350 Broadway, Suite 201
New York, NY 10018


(212) 290-8200 ext 307


Laurie T Johnson
Director, Citizen Climate Cost Project, Open Space Institute, Inc.

Posted 4/7/2017 9:24 AM
Updated   3/31/2018 8:20 PM

  • Nonprofit

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