Quantcast

2017 Weather and Climate Disasters Cost U.S. Record $306 Billion

Climate
The Thomas Fire burns in the hills above Los Padres National Forest in Dec. 2017. Forest Service / Stuart Palley

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 skepticismand 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."

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Pro-environment demonstrators on the streets of Washington, DC during the Jan. 20, 2017 Trump inauguration. Mobilus In Mobili / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

By Dr. Brian R. Shmaefsky

One year after the Flint Water Crisis I was invited to participate in a water rights session at a conference hosted by the US Human Rights Network in Austin, Texas in 2015. The reason I was at the conference was to promote efforts by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) to encourage scientists to shine a light on how science intersects with human rights, in the U.S. as well as in the context of international development. My plan was to sit at an information booth and share my stories about water quality projects I spearheaded in communities in Bangladesh, Colombia, and the Philippines. I did not expect to be thrown into conversations that made me reexamine how scientists use their knowledge as a public good.

Read More
Mt. Rainier and Reflection Lake on Sept. 10, 2015. Crystal Geyser planned to open a bottling plant near Mt. Rainier, emails show. louelke - on and off / Flickr

Bottled water manufacturers looking to capture cool, mountain water from Washington's Cascade Mountains may have to look elsewhere after the state senate passed a bill banning new water permits, as The Guardian reported.

Read More
Sponsored
Large storage tank of Ammonia at a fertilizer plant in Cubatão, Sao Paulo State, Brazil. Luis Veiga / The Image Bank / Getty Images

The shipping industry is coming to grips with its egregious carbon footprint, as it has an outsized contribution to greenhouse gas emissions and to the dumping of chemicals into open seas. Already, the global shipping industry contributes about 2 percent of global carbon emissions, about the same as Germany, as the BBC reported.

Read More
At high tide, people are forced off parts of the pathway surrounding DC's Tidal Basin. Andrew Bossi / Wikimedia

By Sarah Kennedy

The Jefferson Memorial in Washington, DC overlooks the Tidal Basin, a man-made body of water surrounded by cherry trees. Visitors can stroll along the water's edge, gazing up at the stately monument.

But at high tide, people are forced off parts of the path. Twice a day, the Tidal Basin floods and water spills onto the walkway.

Read More
Lioness displays teeth during light rainstorm in Kruger National Park, South Africa. johan63 / iStock / Getty Images

By Jessica Corbett

Ahead of government negotiations scheduled for next week on a global plan to address the biodiversity crisis, 23 former foreign ministers from various countries released a statement on Tuesday urging world leaders to act "boldly" to protect nature.

Read More