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A hurricane devastated a town in Florida. Catastrophic floods in eastern Kentucky. Handicapping heat waves in the northeast and west. A huge historical event. The United States suffered 18 separate disasters in 2022 with damages exceeding $1 billion, and losses totaling $165 billion, according to a new report from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
The annual report from the nation’s premier meteorological organization highlights a troubling trend: Extreme weather events, fueled by human-caused climate change, are occurring at a higher frequency at an increasing cost — in dollars and lives.
Dr Rick Spinrad, Director of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), said: “Climate change is causing more and more extreme events that cause significant damage and often lead to cascading hazards such as severe droughts, followed by devastating wildfires, followed by dangerous floods and mudslides. “. Floods and landslides are currently occurring in California.
In five of the past six years, the costs of climate and weather-related disasters have exceeded $100 billion annually. The average number of billion-dollar disasters has also risen over that time, driven by a combination of increased exposure of people living in and moving to hazardous areas, vulnerability due to increased hazards such as wind speed and fire intensity, and a warming climate, the NOAA report said.
Climate-fueled hurricanes, in particular, cause damage. Hurricane Ian, which killed at least 150 people and smashed entire neighborhoods when it made landfall in Florida as a Category 4 hurricane, cost $112.9 billion alone.
“There are, unfortunately, many trends that are not going in the right direction for us,” said Adam Smith, NOAA applied climate scientist. “For example, the United States has been affected by Category 4 or 5 landfalls in five of the past six years.”
Other worrying trends are also evident
The rising frequency and intensity of extreme weather events reflects rising global temperatures. European researchers said on Tuesday that the past eight years have been the warmest in modern history. Average global temperatures have risen by 1.2 degrees Celsius (2.1 degrees Fahrenheit) since the Industrial Revolution, when humans began burning fossil fuels on a massive scale to boost economies and development.
Despite international pledges to reduce greenhouse emissions and shift the world’s economy to cleaner energy sources, greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise. A report from the nonpartisan research firm Rhodium Group found that US greenhouse gas emissions rose 1.3% in 2022. It was the second year in a row that emissions rose in the US, after a pandemic-induced dip in 2020, on Despite the Biden administration’s goal of halving US emissions by 2030.
The Rhodium Group report stated that the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act, the largest climate law in US history, marked a “watershed”. However, even with the IRA, more aggressive policies are needed to fully bridge the gap [to halve emissions] by 2030.”
More severe weather is expected in 2023
The frequency of billion-dollar disasters has increased significantly in recent years and this trend is expected to continue.
An analysis by the nonprofit Climate Central earlier this year found that between 2017 and 2021 the US experienced a $1 billion disaster every 18 days, on average. The average time between those events in the 1980s was 82 days.
The Climate Central report noted that the shorter the time between events, the fewer resources are available to respond to affected communities.
To reduce the risk of deadly and costly weather events, scientists say the world needs to limit warming by urgently cutting greenhouse emissions. But as evidenced by recent events, the effects of climate change are already there and adaptation efforts are needed as well.
“This sobering data paints a dire picture of how ill-prepared the United States is to deal with the escalating climate crisis and its intersection with other social and economic challenges in people’s daily lives,” said Rachel Cletts, director of policy at the Union of Concerned Scientists. in the current situation. “Instead of responding in a one-time fashion to disasters within the United States, Congress should implement a comprehensive national climate resilience strategy that is commensurate with the damage and risks we already face.”