A total of 20 weather events occurring in the US in 2021 that were chronicled by the US National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI) collectively cost the country at least $145 billion.
Each of those climate or weather events individually led to losses of at least $1 billion and they in all contributed to the deaths of 688 people across the US, showing that “we’re not going to be able to adapt our way out of the increasingly violent climate,” said the agency in its report released on Monday.
Tropical storms had by far the largest economic impact in 2021, causing $78.5 billion in damage; of that, $74 billion alone came from Hurricane Ida, with the storm leaving a trail of destruction from Louisiana to New York, according to the report.
Winter storms followed their tropical counterparts, causing $24 billion in damage. Severe storms and wildfires cost the country $20.4 billion and $10.6 billion, respectively.
The deadliest weather event of 2021 was the drought and series of heat waves that rippled across the West, killing 229 over the course of the year, Xinhua news agency reported.
“There was no shortage of apocalyptic weather disasters plaguing the US in 2021, from pipe-bursting freezes in Texas to road warping heat in the Pacific Northwest to an endless parade of wildfires mixed in for good measure,” said Gizmodo, a US design, technology, science and science fiction website, while reporting about the NCEI data.
Those figures are made even worse when put in context with previous years. The 20 weather events costing more than $1 billion in 2021 far eclipsed the average of roughly seven similar weather events annually between 1980 and 2021.
“Of the 310 weather events topping $1 billion in damage recorded over the past 41 years, 2021 alone accounted for over 15 per cent of them,” Gizmodo cited NCEI.
In just the past five years, weather and climate disasters cost the US economy $742.1 billion and left some 4,519 people dead. The staggering toll reflects a few trends. One is an increasingly violent climate where heat waves are more intense, hurricanes can do more damage, and wildfires are more voracious due to burning fossil fuels.
“Climate change is also playing a role in the increasing frequency of some types of extreme weather that lead to billion-dollar disasters,” the authors of the NCEI report noted.
“Most notably the rise in vulnerability to drought, lengthening wildfire seasons in the western states, and the potential for extremely heavy rainfall (are) becoming more common in the eastern states.”