Posted on September 18, 2023
This year is already the worst year on record for billion-dollar climate disasters in the U.S., a report from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said, as experts warn that extreme events are likely to become more frequent and intense unless drastic action is taken to curb human-driven climate change.
There have been 23 separate weather or climate disasters in 2023 so far that have caused at least $1 billion in estimated damages, the NOAA report said.
With four months of 2023 still left and damages from several recent disasters still being calculated, the figure has already surpassed the record of 22 billion-dollar disasters for all of 2020, NOAA said.
The list covers two flooding events, 18 severe weather events, one winter storm event, one wildfire event and one tropical cyclone.
It includes the wildfires in Hawaii that devastated Maui last month, Hurricane Idalia crashing into Florida and the severe hailstorm in Minnesota.
In total, the events caused the deaths of 253 people and costs exceeded $57.6 billion, the NOAA report said.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
The number of billion-dollar climate disasters is likely to keep climbing this year. The NOAA report noted two recent events as “potential billion-dollar events” that could join this year’s list once calculations are finalized. This includes Tropical Storm Hilary, which prompted southern California’s first-ever tropical storm watch to be issued and brought record-breaking rainfall and flooding across parts of the Southwest, and drought conditions across numerous Midwestern states from spring to fall, which NOAA said has hurt the agricultural sector due to lack of rain.
Leading research consistently finds human activity is responsible for climate change. Without drastic and immediate action taken to slash emissions of carbon and other pollutants (or otherwise remove them from the atmosphere), experts warn warming will continue and extreme events like storms, heat waves, cold snaps, flooding and wildfires will increase in both frequency and severity. There is an enormous economic and human toll to this, and to the broader impact of climate change, and this burden is disproportionately shouldered by the world’s poorest, who typically contributed the least to the current crisis.
The record number of billion-dollar climate disasters and spiraling costs of climate disasters in the U.S. and worldwide, is not solely because these climate events are growing more severe and more frequent. Other factors also play an important role, including how and where we build settlements and infrastructure, and the value of what is at risk.
371. That’s how many weather and climate events where damages or costs have exceeded $1 billion in the U.S. (adjusted for inflation) since 1980, NOAA said. Total costs for these events exceeds $2.615 trillion, the group said.