Billion-Dollar Climate Disasters Now a "Dime-A-Dozen"

Billion-Dollar Climate Disasters Now a "Dime-A-Dozen"

New data from the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) shows that through just the first three quarters of 2022, the US has experienced 15 “billion-dollar natural disasters,” more than double the historical average of seven events per year. This makes 2022 the 8th year in a row in which the US has experienced at least 10 billion-dollar disasters.

DW: Floods, drought and the consequences of extreme weather (Documentary), July 16, 2022.

In total, 2022’s weather disasters totaled $29.3 billion in damages before September saw a rash of western wildfires, as well as hurricanes Ian and Fiona. Already, Ian has proved to be one of the costliest storms in US history, and the deadliest hurricane in Florida since 1935. Early estimates place the storm’s devastation at $67 billion, meaning that once it's tallied, the 2022 economic disaster toll through the end of September will likely exceed $100 billion.

MSNBC: How Is Climate Change Impacting Hurricane Season?, October 6, 2022.

USA Today: Aerial cameras provide a haunting view of Hurricane Ian's damage, October 7, 2022.

60 Minutes: Hurricane Ian: Witnessing the aftermath on Sanibel Island and Florida’s southwest coast, October 12, 2022.

MSNBC: Florida Faces Insurance Crisis From Hurricane Ian, September 29, 2022.

ABC (Australia): Thousands in evacuation centres in northern Victoria where flooding continues, October 16, 2022.

Why This Matters

Climate change is only getting more destructive and expensive by the year. New CDP data shows that four out of five cities across the world, or 80%, are facing climate hazards in 2022. Across the world, global warming has contributed to this year’s catastrophic flooding, rainfall, drought, and heat waves. In Nigeria, devastating floods this month have killed more than 600 and displaced 1.4 million. And, in Australia, the wettest year on record caused floods that have killed 20. These disasters have destroyed farmland, city infrastructure, and residences, racking up a massive economic and human toll. Increasingly, too, they are disrupting children’s education, with storm damage to school buildings keeping kids out of the classroom for months on end.

FRANCE 24: Nigeria's worst floods in a decade kill 600, displace 1.3 million, October 17, 2022.

Seeker: Scientists Can Now Prove That Climate Change Is Causing Natural Disasters, November 25, 2021.

BBC: Past seven years hottest on record, EU satellite data shows, January 10, 2022.

Al Jazeera: Pakistan flood damage could cost the country about $40bn, October 7, 2022.

These events will only worsen if the world doesn’t cut its emissions. A study from last month found that the world has warmed by 1.1 degrees Celsius, which means that five of the nine crucial climate tipping points have already been reached. Moreover, a different study from the WMO projects a 48% chance that global temperatures will rise 1.5 degrees C compared with pre-industrial times over the next five years.

WMO: United in Science 2022 | Animation, September 13, 2022.

Reuters: World could see 1.5C of warming in next five years, May 10, 2022.

PBS: What Will Earth Look Like When These 6 Tipping Points Hit?, September 6, 2022.

Grantham Imperial: Dr Friederike Otto speaks to BBC World News about the heatwaves, 18 July 2022.

A Looming Insurance Crisis

Expensive disasters are not just occurring more frequently, but also with less time in between each one, leaving extreme-weather-prone areas unable to keep up. This state of affairs is roiling the insurance industry, which is struggling to compensate homeowners for damages. In response to climate change’s increasing cost to insurance companies, they have started to push up premiums and pull out of risky areas. Coastlines across the world are becoming increasingly “uninsurable” as sea levels rise and flooding ravages coastal communities.

Climate Central, October 10, 2022.

PBS: Report shows devastating economic impact of rising sea levels along American coast, September 14, 2022.

Bloomberg: Climate Change 'Overtakes Pandemics as Biggest Global Concern,' January 11, 2022.

This is particularly bad with Hurricane Ian, which may be the single biggest insured loss ever. Florida already accounted for 79% of the nation’s insurance lawsuits, or more than 100,000 lawsuits each year. Many insurers have gone bankrupt, or backed out of the state entirely, leaving homeowners to rely on federal funding instead, with taxpayers ultimately footing the bill.

In Louisiana, too, insurance is becoming increasingly unreliable. Just this week, Louisiana Citizens Property Insurance Corporation announced it will raise rates for new and renewed residential property insurance policies by 63%. Homeowners in risky areas are seeing their rates double, with some owing an extra $3,000 per year.

In response, the US Treasury Department announced on Tuesday that it would begin collecting data to determine where climate-related risk is making property insurance inaccessible to homeowners. It marks the first time the department has gathered climate data.

WION: Impact of climate change on Insurance Industry, only 8% insurers prepared, May 17, 2022.

Forbes: Insurance Sector Struggles Amid Climate Change, May 17, 2022.

CNBC: Why Flood Insurance Is Failing The US, November 18, 2020.