US Climate Change Costs Hit $67 Billion: Rising Heat Threatens Life on Earth
September 28, 2016 Associated Press & Juan Cole / Informed Comment & Erin Auel and Alison Cassady / EcoWatch
This year is on pace to smash last year's record for the hottest year. The summer of 2016 was hotter than any summer since at least 1016 AD and there is "compelling evidence" that this past summer was hotter than at any point in the past 100,000 years. Arctic ice levels this year were the second-lowest in recorded history and extreme weather events – wildfires, floods, drought and hurricanes – cost the US $67 billion in disaster relief between 2005 and 2015.
Earth Smashes Yet Another Heat Record;
Sixteenth Hottest Month in a Row Associated Press
(September 22, 2016) -- Another month, another global heat record smashed.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration on Tuesday said August's temperature of 61.74 degrees (16.52 Celsius) was .09 degrees (.05 Celsius) warmer than the old August record set last year, and was the 16th consecutive month of record-breaking heat. NOAA monitoring chief Deke Arndt said it was also the hottest summer, with 2016 on pace to smash last year's record for the hottest year.
August 2016 was also 1.66 degrees (0.92 Celsius) warmer than the 20th-century average. It was the fifth hottest month of any kind recorded, going back to 1880. Six of the 17 hottest months on record have been the summer months of 2015 and 2016.
The June-through-August summer was 2.18 degrees (1.21 Celsius) warmer than the 20th-century average and beat the old summer heat record, set last year, by one-fifth of a degree (0.11 Celsius), NOAA said.
"The needle has been shoved all the way over into the red by greenhouse gases," Arndt said.
NOAA's announcement came on a day when 375 members of the National Academy of Sciences, including Stephen Hawking and 30 Nobel laureates, released an open letter urging American leaders not to pull out of an international agreement to curb global warming.
Organizer and MIT climate scientist Kerry Emanuel said the scientists wrote the letter in response to the Republican party platform that rejects the Paris climate agreement reached last December. The letter said presidential nominee Donald Trump's advocacy of withdrawing from that agreement would "send a clear signal to the rest of the world: The United States does not care about the global problem of human-caused climate change."
Pulling out of the Paris accord, Emanuel said, "will accelerate our head-long plunge into a riskier and riskier climate."
"Everywhere we look we see signs that the climate really is changing," Emanuel said. "We're getting wake-up calls more frequently and we really have to do something about this."
(September 25, 2016) -- Summer of 2016 was not only hotter than any summer on record, i.e. since 1880. We have enough proxies for global average temperature to know that it was hotter than any summer since at least 1016, when Genoa launched a campaign against Muslim Sardinia and Norway not only got a new king but it mattered in global affairs. But that "at least" is a trick.
Eminent climate scientist Michael Mann says there is "tentative but compelling evidence" that it was hotter this past summer than it has been at any point in 100,000 years.
In 100,000 before present, the great human migration out of Africa of 60,000 years B.P. had not yet occurred. (A few small bands went to the Middle East in the 90,000s B.P. but they promptly died out, leaving the world to the Neanderthals for another 40,000 years).
Homo sapiens sapiens -- the "wise, wise humans" were still just hanging out in Kenya and South Africa, hunting gazelle and making stone tools.
This year for the first time in human history, atmospheric carbon dioxide has stayed above 400 parts per million. The last time CO2 was that high was some 3.6 to 2.2. million years ago! And during that period late Pliocene and early Pleistocene) the temperature was much warmer than today and we had much higher seas.
If we're again at 400 ppm of atmospheric CO2, why are we colder than in the late Pliocene? Because we have put up the extra 130 ppm in only 200 years, faster than ever in the history of the universe, and the earth hasn't caught up yet.
Oceans are very cold and very slow-moving. But given them some time and they do heat up. The extra 130 parts per million of CO2 is like a nuclear time bomb that has already been set and is ticking away. It will make things really hot over time. And, at present, there is no known inexpensive way to wash the CO2 back out of the atmosphere. The oceans and igneous rock will do that over 100,000 years but by then we could be both cooked and drowned.
And here's what is scary about this summer's unusual warmth. Human beings evolved into existence sometime in the past 120,000 to 200,000 years, during an era when it was relatively cold. For much of our existence, we were living through an ice age (that helped us get around when some of us left Africa for China and Ireland, since during ice ages the seas fall and open up new land bridges).
Average atmospheric carbon dioxide was 260 to 270 parts per million. Can we survive the new conditions, which will make some kinds of agriculture much harder and may produce megastorms?
We like living on the coast and fishing but the coasts will be covered in water and 50% of the fish will die from extra acidity in the ocean cause by absorbing carbon dioxide.
In other words, it is not clear that we can survive big temperature increases like 6 and 10 degrees C.
(September 24, 2016) -- One of the most visible and immediate ways climate change has affected -- and will continue to affect -- Americans is through extreme weather exacerbated by rising global temperatures.
Between 2005 and 2015, the annual average temperature in the US exceeded the 20th-century average every year, with increases ranging from 0.15 degrees Celsius to 1.81 degrees Celsius above normal.
Moreover, the federal government's most recent National Climate Assessment concludes that as temperatures continue to rise, extreme weather events and wildfires will increase in frequency and intensity.
Climate change will worsen heat waves, winter storms, and hurricanes. It will exacerbate extremes in precipitation, leading to more severe droughts and wildfires in some areas and heavier rainfall and flooding in others. And when the damage is done, taxpayers will be left to pick up the bill.
When extreme weather strikes and state and local governments are overwhelmed, the federal government must often intervene. In the worst cases, the president can declare an emergency or a major disaster, which releases federal funds for the damaged areas.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) provides financial assistance to local, tribal and state governments, as well as individual households, after the president declares an emergency or major disaster.
The Center for American Progress (CAP) examined FEMA data on weather- and wildfire-related disaster declarations between 2005 and 2015 to identify trends in FEMA disaster spending, which is funded by US taxpayers. CAP found that:
* Between 2005 and 2015, FEMA issued more than $67 billion in grants to assist communities and individuals devastated by extreme weather and wildfires. Overall, FEMA spent about $200 per US resident for disaster assistance during that time period.
* FEMA provided the most disaster assistance to Louisiana and New York, which, combined, received more than half of the agency's total assistance over the 10-year period due to damage caused by Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Sandy, respectively. Texas, Mississippi, and New Jersey rank third through fifth for FEMA disaster spending between 2005 and 2015.
* The states that received the most FEMA disaster assistance spending per capita were Louisiana ($4,345), Mississippi ($1,607), North Dakota ($843), and New York ($807). In North Dakota, unprecedented flooding events in 2009 and storms in 2011 caused substantial damage, driving up per-person costs among a smaller state population.
These findings likely underestimate the true federal cost -- and thus the cost to taxpayers -- of extreme weather. FEMA provides assistance in response to the worst natural disasters -- those that triggered emergency and major disaster declarations.
As a result, the findings do not include the costs of smaller but still destructive storms, costs borne by private insurers, and other government spending, such as the US Department of Agriculture's disaster assistance program.
As the climate warms, these types of extreme weather and wildfire events could impose an even greater burden on American communities and taxpayers. In order to prepare for this reality, communities must invest in climate-resilient infrastructure and integrate climate considerations into their development plans.
Findings: FEMA Is Spending Billions on Natural Disasters
Between 2005 and 2015, the president issued 832 separate emergency or disaster declarations for which FEMA provided either public assistance -- defined as funding for state, tribal, and local governments -- or individual assistance in the form of grants typically made to homeowners and renters whose home damage was not covered by homeowners insurance.
Between 2005 and 2015, FEMA spent $67.7 billion on household and public assistance in response to presidentially declared emergencies and major disasters. Of this amount, $14.36 billion was spent on individual and household assistance, and public assistance outlays to state, tribal and local governments made up the rest -- $53.31 billion.
During this 10-year period, there were extreme weather and wildfire events in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and several US territories and throughout all seasons. Severe storms were the most frequent cause of disaster declarations, with 470 distinct declarations across the examined time period.
Although less common than severe storms, hurricanes caused the most damage. Between 2005 and 2015, FEMA spent $49.5 billion on public and individual assistance to help communities recover from hurricanes. FEMA spent $12.7 billion for assistance related to severe storms over the same 10-year period.
Hurricanes accounted for eight of the top-10 costliest disaster declarations between 2005 and 2010, including hurricanes Katrina, Sandy, Ike, Wilma, Rita, Gustav, Irene and Isaac.
Accordingly, although the total assistance by state varied widely, FEMA directed significant disaster spending to states that experienced historic hurricane damage during the period examined. These states include Louisiana and Mississippi, where Hurricane Katrina hit hardest in 2005, and New York and New Jersey, where Hurricane Sandy landed in 2012.
Nationwide, FEMA spent more than $22 billion in assistance responding to Hurricane Katrina, including allocations for states that provided assistance related to evacuations. The agency provided nearly $16 billion in household and public assistance grants in response to Hurricane Sandy.
Non-hurricane events can cause significant and costly damage as well. In August 2016, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, experienced historic flooding from torrential rainfall. As of Aug. 23, the floods had killed 13 people, and more than 100,000 people had applied for federal assistance.
Preliminary analysis from Climate Central and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration found that increased temperatures due to climate change increased the likelihood of intense downpours in Louisiana by 40 percent.
Floods are among the most costly extreme weather events that can hit an area, as they can destroy large areas of property and can take a long time to recede. Between 2005 and 2015, flooding caused eight of the 10 costliest non-hurricane disaster declarations and occurred across several different regions.
Looking at the per-capita costs of extreme weather reveals that these disasters have a profound impact on individuals and communities. Louisiana received $4,345 per person in FEMA disaster spending between 2005 and 2015, the most of any state. Mississippi received the second-highest amount per capita -- more than $1,600. Overall, FEMA spent about $200 per US resident for disaster assistance between 2005 and 2015.
Damage is not just limited to coastal areas. States in the central US with relatively small populations have been hit hard by extreme weather and subsequently received significant assistance from FEMA. North Dakota, for example, ranks third for per-capita FEMA assistance over the analyzed decade due largely to eight distinct flooding events.
Iowa ranks fifth for per-capita FEMA spending and seventh for total spending because of severe storms that caused major statewide flooding in 2008. Of the 10 states with the highest per-capita spending, half are located in the central US
Extreme weather is already costing taxpayers and the federal government valuable public dollars and resources. Americans have recognized these costs; in a 2015 New York Times survey, 83 percent of respondents said that unmitigated climate change poses "a very or somewhat serious problem in the future."
Because of the damage already caused to the climate, communities in the US and around the globe will experience more frequent and intense extreme weather events, even if world leaders take immediate action to cut greenhouse gas emissions.
Faced with this reality, FEMA has proposed a rule that would establish a deductible for disaster assistance in order to encourage states to make investments in resilience measures before disasters occur. This rule could incentivize states to invest in climate-smart infrastructure to minimize the financial and human toll of extreme weather.
The FEMA proposal is one among many efforts to push communities to better prepare for storms, floods, and other natural disasters -- an effort made even more urgent because of climate change -- rather than focusing only on responding to a disaster's aftermath.
Resilience, however, is only one prong in a coordinated response to climate change. The world must also focus on mitigating the worst impacts of climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions and transitioning the global economy to cleaner, low-carbon forms of energy.
CAP examined FEMA data on presidential declarations of major disasters and emergencies between 2005 and 2015. The data reflect the two primary disaster declaration types: major disaster and emergency. CAP analyzed FEMA data on public and individual/household assistance spending in response to these declarations. The data were last updated on July 12.
For the per-capita analysis in Table 3, CAP used population data obtained from the US Census Bureau. To calculate the per-capita costs by state, CAP averaged the state population totals from 2005, 2010 and 2015. The national per-capita figure in Table 3 reflects FEMA disaster assistance to all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and the US territories.
CAP developed a methodology for excluding and including disasters to ensure the analysis only includes declarations that reflect the types of events that could become more common with unmitigated climate change.
We included public and individual assistance payments made in response to major disaster declarations and emergency declarations for the following types of incidents: coastal storms, drought, flooding, freezing, hurricanes, mudslides from flooding, severe ice storms, severe storms, snow, tornadoes, typhoons and wildfires.
We excluded public and individual assistance payments made for the following types of incidents that occurred between 2005 and 2015: water main breaks, terrorism, explosions, earthquakes, chemical spills, tsunamis, the 2009 presidential inauguration, bridge collapses and volcanoes.
Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.