The United States was hit by 20 billion-dollar weather and weather disasters in 2021, one of the most catastrophic weather years on record that resulted in at least 688 deaths, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) annual report.
Damages from the 20 costliest disasters of the year, which included thousands of wildfires in western states, freezing temperatures and hail storms in Texas, tornadoes in the southeast, and tropical storms that saturated the east coast, totaled about $ 145 billion.
This makes 2021 the third costliest extreme weather year on record, with four tropical storms – Elsa, Fred, Ida and Nicholas – accounting for just over half of the total price.
Deadly mega-disasters spread throughout 2021 and affected communities from coast to coast, beginning with flash floods and bomb cyclones in California and ending with the most destructive wildfire in Colorado history, wiping out nearly 1,100 homes and 6,000. acres (2400 hectares), causing more than $ 10 billion in damage.
Between 44% and 56% of the country was affected by drought during the course of 2021.
Overall, the US saw its fourth warmest year on record driven by record highs in December (topping 2015) that produced spring temperatures in parts of the East Coast. Ten states – Alabama, Arkansas, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas – also had the warmest December on record.
Across the country, people of color and low-income communities are disproportionately affected by the number of casualties and trauma from extreme weather events, which in many cases are directly attributed to global warming caused by carbon emissions. greenhouse gases.
NOAA report It comes as Joe Biden tries to resuscitate his Build Back Better bill, which includes the largest climate investment ever made in the country and without which, according to experts, the US has no chance of fulfilling its promise to cut back. greenhouse gas emissions at least 50% below 2005 levels by 2030. Fossil fuel senator Joe Manchin’s opposition to the $ 1.75 trillion welfare and economic recovery bill is delaying its passage in the Senate.
If radical steps are not taken to reduce greenhouse gases, it will likely take its toll on an increasing number of Americans, as the costs (human and economic) of extreme weather and climate disasters are already rising.
“The data highlights an undeniable and worsening trend that underscores the reality of how the climate crisis is already affecting all regions of the country,” said Rachel Cleetus, policy director for the Climate and Energy Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists ( UCS). “We simply cannot adapt to runaway climate change … Fossil fuel companies and their allies must not be allowed to stand in the way of desperately needed climate action.”
NOAA’s disaster monitoring shows that the average number of billion-dollar events per year over the past five years was 17.2 compared to just 5.3 during the 1990s. The staggering costs of mega-disasters between 2017 and 2021 they amounted to nearly $ 750 billion.
Climate change has outpaced building standards, which have played a major role in increasing the number and cost of mega-disasters, according to Adam Smith, an applied climatologist at NOAA.
“Much of the growth has taken place in vulnerable areas such as coasts, river floodplains and the urban wilderness interface. Vulnerability is especially high where building codes are insufficient to reduce damage from extreme events, ”Smith said.
While the increasing intensity and frequency of weather and climate disasters, such as extreme rainfall, extreme heat, and drought, are directly attributed to global warming, the links to tornadoes are not fully understood yet
Still, 2021 was a very active tornado year with a record 193 in December, almost double the previous high of 97 in 2002.
Another historical event was the freeze in mid-February in Texas that left more than 200 dead and thousands without electricity or running water. Damage is estimated at $ 24 billion, costing more than double the so-called storm of the century that swept from Canada to Honduras in March 1993.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism