Weather and climate-related disasters cost the US $80 billion in 2018, but go ahead and say climate change isn’t real

Weather and climate-related disasters cost the U.S. economy $80 billion last year — and have hit the nation’s bottom line to the tune of roughly $100 billion per year over the last five years, according to a new survey from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. That tally comes as NASA reported that 2018 was […]

Weather and climate-related disasters cost the U.S. economy $80 billion last year — and have hit the nation’s bottom line to the tune of roughly $100 billion per year over the last five years, according to a new survey from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

That tally comes as NASA reported that 2018 was also the fourth warmest year ever recorded — continuing a trend of record-breaking global temperatures.

It looks like the anthropogenic causes of climate change are becoming harder to ignore.

Indeed, the NOAA’s Climate.gov report was very blunt about the causes of the increasing frequency with which natural disasters are occurring across the country:

The past three years (2016-2018) have been historic, with the annual average number of billion-dollar disasters being more than double the long-term average. The number and cost of disasters are increasing over time due to a combination of increased exposure, vulnerability, and the fact the climate change is increasing the frequency of some types of extremes that lead to billion-dollar disasters.

In total, the U.S. was hit by 14 separate disaster events whose costs were more than $1 billion: the litany of climatological horrors included two tropical cyclones, eight severe storms, two winter storms, prolonged drought and wildfires (that probably burned all the partridges out of their pear trees).

As the NOAA report notes, this tally is the fourth highest number of total events ever recorded — behind 2017 and 2011 (tied at 16 natural disasters) and 2015, which saw 15 natural disasters worth more than $1 billion slam the U.S.

Last year was also one of the costliest for the American economy in terms of the impact from natural disasters. The $80 billion price tag is only topped by 2017, when storms, fires, floods and drought cost the economy $312.7 billion (a record); 2005, when the number hit $220.8 billion and 2012 when $128.6 billion was lost due to climate-related disasters.

Of the events that are the most damaging and costliest to the U.S. economy, hurricanes rank the highest. And from 2016-2018 the U.S. was impacted by six separate hurricanes that cost the economy more than $1 billion. In all, those disasters wrought some $329.9 billion in economic damage and killed 3,138 people.

While there’s a tragic, historic precedence for the damage caused by hurricanes, the Western wildfire seasons of the past two years are unprecedented in size and scope in modern history. With costs running over $40 billion, the wildfire costs in the U.S. for the last two years are equal to the cost from fires for the previous 37 years combined.

Meanwhile, NASA scientists have said that the past five years have been, collectively, the warmest years in the modern record.

“2018 is yet again an extremely warm year on top of a long-term global warming trend,” said GISS Director Gavin Schmidt, in a statement.

Since the 1880s, the average global surface temperature has risen about 2 degrees Fahrenheit — and this warming is caused in large part by increased emissions into the atmosphere of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, Schmidt said.

“The impacts of long-term global warming are already being felt — in coastal flooding, heat waves, intense precipitation and ecosystem change,” said Schmidt, in a statement.

It’s important to note that overall global warming contributes to drastic shifts in climate patterns and climate change. It doesn’t mean that there won’t be conditions of extreme cold as (ahem) some people seem to think.

In fact, global warming hasn’t gone anywhere… yet.

There is a plan being proposed by Democrats in the House of Representatives that aims to push the U.S. to rapidly decarbonize its economy in a bid to offset some of the worst effects that are expected should global temperatures continue to rise (and if anyone wants to send that to me, I’d be obliged).

Given that most reports put a 12-year time frame around reversing the worst impacts of climate change, and U.S. reports put the potential economic damage of unchecked warming at somewhere close to $500 billion, getting a move on toward possible solutions seems like a good idea. Let’s hope Congress can follow through.

 

 

New U.S. report says that climate change could cost nearly $500 billion per year by 2090

A new report from the U.S. government on the impacts of climate change on society indicates that unless action is taken, climatological events could cost the country nearly half a trillion dollars annually by 2090. The National Climate Assessment is a congressionally mandated report on the impacts of climate change and was culled from the work […]

A new report from the U.S. government on the impacts of climate change on society indicates that unless action is taken, climatological events could cost the country nearly half a trillion dollars annually by 2090.

The National Climate Assessment is a congressionally mandated report on the impacts of climate change and was culled from the work of 300 authors in a dozen federal agencies. The 1,000 page report covers the effect of climate change on agriculture, labor, geography, and health in the United States.

It’s the second volume of a report intended to give federal policymakers information on how global warming will impact the United States. 

It also comes at a time when the current administration is doing everything to refute the mounting evidence coming from inside its own agencies and shirk its national and international commitments to mitigating the effects of global climate change.

In the absence of more significant global mitigation efforts, climate change is projected to impose substantial damages on the U.S. economy, human health, and the environment. Under scenarios with high emissions and limited or no adaptation, annual losses in some sectors are estimated to grow to hundreds of billions of dollars by the end of the century. It is very likely that some physical and ecological impacts will be irreversible for thousands of years, while others will be permanent.

There is hope that the world can still change course and reverse the effects associated with climate change. In fact, the study says that near-term mitigation efforts should begin showing results by the middle of the century. It’ll let scientists know what steps they’re taking are working and what aren’t — ideally.

Many climate change impacts and associated economic damages in the United States can be substantially reduced over the course of the 21st century through global-scale reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, though the magnitude and timing of avoided risks vary by sector and region. The effect of near-term emissions mitigation on reducing risks is expected to become apparent by mid-century and grow substantially thereafter.

But for the scientists that collected the data and assembled the report, the evidence of the human impact of climate change is now incontrovertible.

Observations from around the world show the widespread effects of increasing greenhouse gas concentrations on Earth’s climate. High temperature extremes and heavy precipitation events are increasing. Glaciers and snow cover are shrinking, and sea ice is retreating. Seas are warming, rising, and becoming more acidic, and marine species are moving to new locations toward cooler waters. Flooding is becoming more frequent along the U.S. coastline. Growing seasons are lengthening, and wildfires are increasing.

While the federal government may not be willing to take action to curb the emissions that contribute to global warming, states, led by California, increasingly are developing legislation to mitigate or reduce carbon emissions and to create adaptation strategies for dealing with a warming climate.

Venture capitalists also are beginning to commit significant capital to technologies focused on alternative energy generation, energy storage, emissions reduction, and energy conservation that all fall under the category of sustainable solutions.

Indeed, the public offering for the vegetarian consumer food company, Beyond Meat, shows that there’s a growing market for investments in companies that promote a more sustainable lifestyle.

And early stage accelerator programs like Y Combinator are also getting into the game, calling for startups that are developing technologies to reduce the emissions that are contributing to global warming.

The new report from the government paints a dire picture for the future if nothing is done, but, as the investment and technology community once again mobilizes to develop potential solutions, there’s a chance that things may not be completely hopeless yet.

The critical step will be if the U.S. government will heed the advice of its own scientists, and take steps to encourage greater action to what is increasingly looking like the biggest threat to human welfare.

This is not fine

A UN report compiled by a coalition of international climate experts has warned that “rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society” are required if global warming is to be limited to just 1.5°C. The report also sets out some of the dire consequences for both humanity and life on Earth if that […]

A UN report compiled by a coalition of international climate experts has warned that “rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society” are required if global warming is to be limited to just 1.5°C.

The report also sets out some of the dire consequences for both humanity and life on Earth if that threshold is exceeded, and points out that, conversely, limiting global warming would give people and ecosystems “more room to adapt and remain below relevant risk thresholds”.

Decisions made by world leaders today are critical in ensuring a safe and sustainable world for everyone, the authors warn.

“One of the key messages that comes out very strongly from this report is that we are already seeing the consequences of 1°C of global warming through more extreme weather, rising sea levels and diminishing Arctic sea ice, among other changes,” said Panmao Zhai, co-chair of one of the report’s scientific working groups.

“The good news is that some of the kinds of actions that would be needed to limit global warming to 1.5°C are already underway around the world, but they would need to accelerate,” added Valerie Masson-Delmotte, co-chair of the same group.

To limit the damage caused by climate change, global net human-caused emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) would need to fall by about 45% from 2010 levels by 2030, reaching ‘net zero’ around 2050 — which means that any remaining emissions would need to be balanced by removing CO2 from the air.

If world leaders do not succeeding in keeping warming to 1.5°C humanity will face a range of far more severe impacts, with a 2°C rise meaning an extra 10cm rise in sea levels by 2100 — which would inundate scores more coastal cities and low lying areas, increasing the amount of people who would be displaced in future.

Climate-related risks to health, livelihoods, food security, water supply, human security, and economic growth are also projected to be more severe at the higher temperature rise.

While the report says that limiting global warming to 1.5°C would reduce risks to marine biodiversity, fisheries, and ecosystems, and their functions and services to humans.

Even with a 1.5°C rise coral reefs would still be severely impacted, declining by 70-90% — but virtually all (>99%) reefs would be lost with a 2°C rise.

While the likelihood of an Arctic Ocean free of sea ice in summer would be once per century with global warming of 1.5°C, compared with at least once per decade with 2°C, according to the report.

Likewise, on land, impacts on biodiversity and ecosystems, including species loss and extinction, are projected to be lower at 1.5°C of global warming vs 2°C.

Impacts associated with other biodiversity-related risks — such as forest fires, and the spread of invasive species — would also be less severe if climate change can be contained to a smaller rise.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) compiled the Special Report on Global Warming in response to an invitation from the UN’s Framework Convention on Climate Change when 195 global leaders adopted the 2015 Paris Agreement to tackle climate change — an accord which President Trump turned his back on last year when he withdrew the US from the agreement.

The report will be a key scientific input for the Katowice Climate Change Conference, which takes place in Poland in December, when other heads of state will meet to review the Paris Agreement.

The group of 91 authors and review editors from 40 countries who prepared the report argue that keeping global temperature rise to 1.5°C would also support a more sustainable and equitable society.

“Limiting global warming to 1.5°C compared with 2°C would reduce challenging impacts on ecosystems, human health and well-being, making it easier to achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals,” said Priyardarshi Shukla, co-chair of IPCC Working Group III, in a statement.

“Every extra bit of warming matters, especially since warming of 1.5°C or higher increases the risk associated with long-lasting or irreversible changes, such as the loss of some ecosystems,” added Hans-Otto Pörtner, Co-Chair of IPCC Working Group II.

Any ‘overshoot’ of 1.5°C would mean a greater reliance on techniques that remove CO2 from the air to return global temperature to below 1.5°C by 2100.

But policymakers are warned that the effectiveness of such techniques are unproven at large scale and some may carry significant risks for sustainable development.

Meme via GIPHY

This is not fine

A UN report compiled by a coalition of international climate experts has warned that “rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society” are required if global warming is to be limited to just 1.5°C. The report also sets out some of the dire consequences for both humanity and life on Earth if that […]

A UN report compiled by a coalition of international climate experts has warned that “rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society” are required if global warming is to be limited to just 1.5°C.

The report also sets out some of the dire consequences for both humanity and life on Earth if that threshold is exceeded, and points out that, conversely, limiting global warming would give people and ecosystems “more room to adapt and remain below relevant risk thresholds”.

Decisions made by world leaders today are critical in ensuring a safe and sustainable world for everyone, the authors warn.

“One of the key messages that comes out very strongly from this report is that we are already seeing the consequences of 1°C of global warming through more extreme weather, rising sea levels and diminishing Arctic sea ice, among other changes,” said Panmao Zhai, co-chair of one of the report’s scientific working groups.

“The good news is that some of the kinds of actions that would be needed to limit global warming to 1.5°C are already underway around the world, but they would need to accelerate,” added Valerie Masson-Delmotte, co-chair of the same group.

To limit the damage caused by climate change, global net human-caused emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) would need to fall by about 45% from 2010 levels by 2030, reaching ‘net zero’ around 2050 — which means that any remaining emissions would need to be balanced by removing CO2 from the air.

If world leaders do not succeeding in keeping warming to 1.5°C humanity will face a range of far more severe impacts, with a 2°C rise meaning an extra 10cm rise in sea levels by 2100 — which would inundate scores more coastal cities and low lying areas, increasing the amount of people who would be displaced in future.

Climate-related risks to health, livelihoods, food security, water supply, human security, and economic growth are also projected to be more severe at the higher temperature rise.

While the report says that limiting global warming to 1.5°C would reduce risks to marine biodiversity, fisheries, and ecosystems, and their functions and services to humans.

Even with a 1.5°C rise coral reefs would still be severely impacted, declining by 70-90% — but virtually all (>99%) reefs would be lost with a 2°C rise.

While the likelihood of an Arctic Ocean free of sea ice in summer would be once per century with global warming of 1.5°C, compared with at least once per decade with 2°C, according to the report.

Likewise, on land, impacts on biodiversity and ecosystems, including species loss and extinction, are projected to be lower at 1.5°C of global warming vs 2°C.

Impacts associated with other biodiversity-related risks — such as forest fires, and the spread of invasive species — would also be less severe if climate change can be contained to a smaller rise.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) compiled the Special Report on Global Warming in response to an invitation from the UN’s Framework Convention on Climate Change when 195 global leaders adopted the 2015 Paris Agreement to tackle climate change — an accord which President Trump turned his back on last year when he withdrew the US from the agreement.

The report will be a key scientific input for the Katowice Climate Change Conference, which takes place in Poland in December, when other heads of state will meet to review the Paris Agreement.

The group of 91 authors and review editors from 40 countries who prepared the report argue that keeping global temperature rise to 1.5°C would also support a more sustainable and equitable society.

“Limiting global warming to 1.5°C compared with 2°C would reduce challenging impacts on ecosystems, human health and well-being, making it easier to achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals,” said Priyardarshi Shukla, co-chair of IPCC Working Group III, in a statement.

“Every extra bit of warming matters, especially since warming of 1.5°C or higher increases the risk associated with long-lasting or irreversible changes, such as the loss of some ecosystems,” added Hans-Otto Pörtner, Co-Chair of IPCC Working Group II.

Any ‘overshoot’ of 1.5°C would mean a greater reliance on techniques that remove CO2 from the air to return global temperature to below 1.5°C by 2100.

But policymakers are warned that the effectiveness of such techniques are unproven at large scale and some may carry significant risks for sustainable development.

Meme via GIPHY