2017 Weather and Climate Disasters Cost U.S. Record $306 Billion
2017, one of the hottest years in modern history, was also an extremely costly year. According to a new report from the National Centers for Environmental Information, a division of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), "the U.S. experienced 16 weather and climate disasters with losses exceeding $1 billion, with total costs of approximately $306 billion—a new U.S. annual record."
The federal agency listed several noteworthy events, including the wildfires in the west, with total costs of $18 billion, tripling the previous U.S. annual wildfire cost record.
The year's string of devastating hurricanes were also very expensive. Hurricane Harvey had total costs of $125 billion. Hurricanes Maria and Irma had total costs of $90 billion and $50 billion, respectively.
2005 was the previous most expensive year for the U.S., with losses of $215 billion mostly due to Hurricanes Katrina, Wilma and Rita.
The tropical cyclones, storms, floods, a crop freeze, drought and wildfires in 2017 were not only costly financially—they also caused a total of 362 direct fatalities, the report said.
With 16 billion-dollar disasters in 2017, the U.S. has now experienced 219 weather and climate disasters since 1980—total losses exceed $1.5 trillion.NOAA NCEI Climate
The report noted that 2017 was the third warmest year since record keeping began in 1895. The average annual temperature for the contiguous U.S. last year was 54.6 degrees Fahrenheit, 2.6 degrees above the 20th century average.
A separate announcement from the Copernicus Climate Change Service, a major international weather agency, recently ranked 2017 as the second-hottest year.
"It's striking that 16 of the 17 warmest years have all been this century," Jean-Noel Thepaut, head of Copernicus, told Reuters, noting the overwhelming scientific consensus that man-made emissions have exacerbated Earth's rising temperatures.
The NOAA report highlights the extreme costs of climate and weather disasters despite President Donald Trump and his administration's skepticism—and downright indifference—towards climate policy, from pulling the U.S. out of the Paris agreement to dropping climate change from the list of national security threats.
Trump said in June after withdrawing the country out of the global climate accord: "I was elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris."
He claimed the Paris agreement "hamstrings the United States while empowering some of the world's top polluting countries."
Last month, the president unveiled a new national security strategy that reversed an Obama-era declaration that placed climate change as a major threat facing the nation.
Rather, Trump's "America First" plan focuses on four themes surrounding economic security for the U.S: “protecting the homeland and way of life; promoting American prosperity; demonstrating peace through strength; and advancing American influence in an ever-competitive world," the Associated Press reported, quoting senior administration officials.
A draft document of the national security strategy showed that the Trump administration would actively oppose efforts to reduce the burning of fossil fuels for energy, which emits greenhouse gases that drive global warming.
"U.S. leadership is indispensable to countering an anti-growth, energy agenda that is detrimental to U.S. economic and energy security interests," the document stated.
“Given future global energy demand, much of the developing world will require fossil fuels, as well as other forms of energy, to power their economies and lift their people out of poverty."
- Redwoods are the world's tallest trees.
- Now scientists have discovered they are even bigger than we thought.
- Using laser technology they map the 80-meter giants.
- Trees are a key plank in the fight against climate change.
They are among the largest trees in the world, descendants of forests where dinosaurs roamed.
Pixabay / Simi Luft<p><span>Until recently, measuring these trees meant scaling their 80 meter high trunks with a tape measure. Now, a team of scientists from University College London and the University of Maryland uses advanced laser scanning, to create 3D maps and calculate the total mass.</span></p><p>The results are striking: suggesting the trees <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-020-73733-6" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">may be as much as 30% larger than earlier measurements suggested.</a> Part of that could be due to the additional trunks the Redwoods can grow as they age, <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-020-73733-6" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">a process known as reiteration</a>.</p>
New 3D measurements of large redwood trees for biomass and structure. Nature / UCL<p>Measuring the trees more accurately is important because carbon capture will probably play a key role in the battle against climate change. Forest <a href="https://www.wri.org/blog/2020/09/carbon-sequestration-natural-forest-regrowth" target="_blank">growth could absorb billions of tons</a> of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere each year.</p><p>"The importance of big trees is widely-recognised in terms of carbon storage, demographics and impact on their surrounding ecosystems," the authors wrote<a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-020-73733-6" target="_blank"> in the journal Nature</a>. "Unfortunately the importance of big trees is in direct proportion to the difficulty of measuring them."</p><p>Redwoods are so long lived because of their ability to <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-020-73733-6" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">cope with climate change, resist disease and even survive fire damage</a>, the scientists say. Almost a fifth of their volume may be bark, which helps protect them.</p>
Carbon Capture Champions<p><span>Earlier research by scientists at Humboldt University and the University of Washington found that </span><a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0378112716302584" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Redwood forests store almost 2,600 tonnes of carbon per hectare</a><span>, their bark alone containing more carbon than any other neighboring species.</span></p><p>While the importance of trees in fighting climate change is widely accepted, not all species enjoy the same protection as California's coastal Redwoods. In 2019 the world lost the equivalent of <a href="https://www.worldwildlife.org/threats/deforestation-and-forest-degradation" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">30 soccer fields of forest cover every minute</a>, due to agricultural expansion, logging and fires, according to The Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF).</p>
Pixabay<p>Although <a href="https://c402277.ssl.cf1.rackcdn.com/publications/1420/files/original/Deforestation_fronts_-_drivers_and_responses_in_a_changing_world_-_full_report_%281%29.pdf?1610810475" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">the rate of loss is reported to have slowed in recent years</a>, reforesting the world to help stem climate change is a massive task.</p><p><span>That's why the World Economic Forum launched the Trillion Trees Challenge (</span><a href="https://www.1t.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">1t.org</a><span>) and is engaging organizations and individuals across the globe through its </span><a href="https://uplink.weforum.org/uplink/s/uplink-issue/a002o00000vOf09AAC/trillion-trees" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Uplink innovation crowdsourcing platform</a><span> to support the project.</span></p><p>That's backed up by research led by ETH Zurich/Crowther Lab showing there's potential to restore tree coverage across 2.2 billion acres of degraded land.</p><p>"Forests are critical to the health of the planet," according to <a href="https://www.1t.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">1t.org</a>. "They sequester carbon, regulate global temperatures and freshwater flows, recharge groundwater, anchor fertile soil and act as flood barriers."</p><p><em data-redactor-tag="em" data-verified="redactor">Reposted with permission from the </em><span><em data-redactor-tag="em" data-verified="redactor"><a href="https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2021/03/redwoods-store-more-co2-and-are-more-enormous-than-we-thought/" target="_blank">World Economic Forum</a>.</em></span></p>
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