Major weather disasters that hit the United States in 2022 caused at least $165 billion in damages, according to a federal report released Tuesday that points to the amplifying effects of climate change.
This annual amount is the third highest since the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency (NOAA) began tracking these data in 1980. Hurricane Ian, the costliest event of 2022, devastated Florida in late September, causing $112.9 billion in damage alone.
The two most damaging years in the past were 2005 (Hurricane Katrina) and 2017 (Hurricanes Harvey and Irma).
For its calculation, NOAA takes into account the destruction of buildings, public infrastructure (bridges, roads, etc.), lost profits for businesses or even losses for agriculture – but not care, health or other indirect costs.
The second costliest event after Ian was the heat wave and drought that hit the western and central United States, costing more than $22 billion.
In all, the United States experienced at least 18 weather disasters costing more than a billion dollars last year, the third-highest year ever — behind 2020 and 2021. .
NOAA warns that this concentration of major weather events in recent years points to a “new normal.”
Between 1980 and 2022, the average annual number of such disasters was eight. However, if we consider only the last five years, the average rises to 17.8 cases per year.
Climate change is “increasing the frequency and intensity of certain types of weather events,” NOAA said, citing droughts, longer fire seasons and rising sea levels that worsen storm surges.
According to an analysis by the research group Rhodium Group, greenhouse gas emissions in the United States increased slightly (+1.3%) in 2022 compared to the previous year.
The last eight years have been the warmest globally, surpassing pre-industrial temperatures by more than one degree, according to the annual report of the European climate change program Copernicus published on Tuesday.
– “The cost of inaction” –
Globally, Hurricane Ian was the costliest disaster ever, according to an analysis published by Christian Aid in late December. Last summer there was a severe drought in Europe (about 20 billion) and massive floods in China (12 billion) during the same period.
Christian Aid CEO Patrick Watt said in a press release that the data highlights “the financial cost of inaction in the face of the climate crisis.” And “behind those dollar figures are millions of human stories of loss and suffering.”
According to its report, 18 disasters identified by NOAA in the United States caused fewer than 500 deaths.
The $165 billion figure could increase by several billion, as costs related to the extreme cold wave that hit the northern United States in late December have not yet fully subsided.
And knowing that this report only considers major disasters, if you add in the smaller ones, the total costs of weather events are even higher. But the largest disasters, according to the agency, account for an increasing share of the total disaster over the years (about 85% in 2022).
In addition to the increased frequency of these disasters due to climate change, the increased costs are due in part to increased population (and therefore stockpiling) in areas at risk, such as the coast.
“There is a growing need to focus on where we build, how we build, and investments to upgrade infrastructure for the 21st century climate,” NOAA said.
Since 1980, there have been 341 weather events in the United States with a total cost of more than $2.5 trillion.