Infographic: U.S. disaster relief costs soar as extreme weather increases

• April 30, 2013
Disaster relief costs set to escalate. Creative Commons: Oliver Rich, 2012

Flooding from Hurricane Sandy in New York, Creative Commons: Oliver Rich, 2012

A new report from the Center for American Progress (CAP) reveals that the United States has spent a total of $136 billion in disaster relief from the surge in extreme weather the nation has faced since 2011. Government agencies have been coping with the economic consequences of persistent drought, record-breaking heat waves, intense hurricanes and wildfires, attempting to regain normalcy in a changing climate.

Climate change is increasing the number of damaging extreme weather events seen in North America. In fiscal years 2011, 2012, and 2013, the U.S. experienced 25 weather events that each cost at least one billion dollars in damages and recovery.

This news comes out exactly six months after Superstorm Sandy slammed northeastern states, causing massive flooding and damage in coastal cities. Midwestern states are also still recovering from recent flooding that inundated communities in the middle of a prolonged drought.

Munich Re, the world’s biggest reinsurance firm, found that North America is experiencing a nearly five-fold increase in extreme weather disasters. While no single weather event is directly caused by climate change, climate scientists are able to attribute a broader shift in the severity of weather patterns to rising greenhouse gas emissions.

The report also highlighted research from the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) that estimates that for every one dollar spent on pre-disaster adaptation, four dollars are saved in reduced weather damages. Investments made in adaptation and community resilience are wise investments that save money – as well as lives and property – in the long term. Acknowledging the connection between our role in creating global climate change and the mounting damages caused by natural disasters is vital to beginning to make forward-thinking investments in climate solutions and local resilience.

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Source: Center for American Progress, 2013

Source: Center for American Progress, 2013

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