Extreme weather events have increased four-fold and the annual direct cost of the disasters has increased five-fold in the last four decades in the United States, according to a new analysis.
Since 1980, the United States had a total of 258 weather and climate “billion-dollar” disasters and had incurred a total direct cost of more than 1.75 trillion dollars, said the analysis that was commissioned by Environmental Defence Fund that looks at the cost of climate-linked natural disasters..
In the analysis “Climate change – fueled weather disasters; Cost to State and Local Economies”, the researchers said that they summarised the data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Billion-Dollar Weather and Climate Disasters database and other public sources. NOAA has tracked the costs of the most extreme weather events in the United States since 1980.
The report said that climate change and shifting land use patterns are the driving factors that led to the disasters. The population in counties prone to hurricane damage grew at least 22 percent faster than the overall US population, the analysis said. They said the Congressional Budget Office has projected that ten million people will be living in hurricane damaged counties by 2075.
It points out that all 50 states have suffered from at least one billion dollar weather disaster. It also mentions that all seven types of disaster have hit repeatedly in five states — North Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, and Texas. All these five states have endured several million dollar disasters such as hurricanes, floods, severe storms, winter storms, droughts, wildfires and freezes.
The report also warned that disasters will become “more frequent, more severe, and more costly’ as the world continues to warm. It also said that one can expect a future with many more billion dollar disasters in the absence of any climate action. “For every 1°C of warming, future damage is projected to cost roughly 1.2 percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP). In 2019 terms, this would be roughly 257 billion dollars annually,” the report said.
Noting that it was not possible to reverse the damages done, the analysts say that it was only possible to slow the rate of future warming. They point out that it was crucial to adapt, build resilience, and in some cases, retreat from disaster prone areas. “Adaptation and resilience projects such as elevating buildings or rebuilding coastal wetlands are a worthwhile investment in limiting damage from future disasters. Protecting people from areas that repeatedly get flooded or burned may require relocating rather than continuing to rebuild,” they said.