18 Weather Disasters in 2021 Cost US $1 Billion or More Each
According to a report by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), there have been 18 billion-dollar weather disasters in 2021, surpassing 2020's disaster costs with almost three months still left until 2022. Experts say that weather events across the spectrum, including wildfires, hurricanes, and severe weather, are not only intensifying but happening in rapid succession. Now, the nation's infrastructure, economy, environment, and population are facing "disaster fatigue."
Why This Matters
The Biden Administration and climate leaders in Congress are struggling to pass legislation to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050, decarbonize our energy systems, and update the nation's crumbling infrastructure. But while partisan battles rage in the legislature, so are devastating weather events -- and their impacts don't stop at breaking the nation's recovery budget. These disasters have worsened COVID-19 rates, caused oil spills, and destroyed crucial carbon sinks, threatening not only human and environmental health but the nation's capacity to sequester its carbon emissions. The Biden Administration's infrastructure and budget packages include climate adaptation infrastructure hand in hand with emissions reductions. Still, as they languish in debate on the house floor, those on the front lines are waiting for relief.
Eighteen of this year's weather events cost the US at least $1 billion each, including nine severe storms, four tropical cyclones, two floods, one wildfire, one heatwave, and a cold wave. So far, they've totaled $104.8 billion in costs, surpassing 2020's $100.2 billion. The death toll for these events also increased to 538, more than twice that of 2020.
The most expensive event was Hurricane Ida, which racked up an estimated $64.5 billion to $95 billion in damages from New Orleans to New York City. Additionally, the report found the 2021 Atlantic Basin hurricane season to be particularly active, producing nine named storms in September alone.
This is the seventh consecutive year the nation has faced more than 10 disasters costing at least a billion dollars each, and the first nine months of 2021 have had the largest number of disasters compared to any other year. With almost three months left in the year, climate experts worry that this year may surpass 2020.
Vox: How climate change makes hurricanes worse, August 28, 2017.