extreme weather

2017 Weather and Climate Disasters Cost US Record $306 Billion

LA Firefighting helicopter drops water on a burning home near Burbank, CA in 2017

By Lorraine Chow, EcoWatch. Reposted with permission from EcoWatch.

2017, one of the hottest years in modern history, was also an extremely costly year. According to a new reportfrom the National Centers for Environmental Information, a division of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), “the U.S. experienced 16 weather and climate disasters with losses exceeding $1 billion, with total costs of approximately $306 billion—a new U.S. annual record.”

The federal agency listed several noteworthy events, including the wildfires in the west, with total costs of $18 billion, tripling the previous U.S. annual wildfire cost record.

2017 in Photos: Capturing the Causes and Impacts of Climate Change

A dance troop marches past a Shell refinery in Norco, Louisiana's annual Christmas parade

The year 2017 was, in many ways, stormy. It brought more storms super-sized due to global warming and more people, including scientists, taking to the streets in response to the political climate.

This year for DeSmog I continued documenting a range of issues related to climate change, from extreme weather enhanced by it to the expanding industrial landscape contributing to it. 

2017 in Photos (3)

Pruitt’s Plan to Debate Climate Science Paused as Science Confirms Human Link to Extreme Weather

Chairs floating in Hurricane Harvey floodwaters in Houston, Texas

The same week that a slew of new scientific reports confirmed just how much humans are changing the climate, and in turn, the rest of the planet, Environmental Protection Agency Chief Scott Pruitt’s plans for a “Red Team, Blue Team” debate of this very same science were put on hold.

The military-style exercise that would falsely pit the overwhelming majority of climate scientists against a handful of non-experts is an eight-year-old talking point of the notorious climate-denying think tank the Heartland Institute (which is likely not surprised by this development). Meanwhile, last week in New Orleans, several groups of prominent climate scientists shared their latest findings at the world's largest gathering of Earth and planetary scientists. The roughly 25,000 attendees of the American Geophysical Union annual meeting included scientific leaders from academia, government, and the private sector.

Minority Communities Suffer from Storms as GOP and Trump Admin Promote Oil and Gas

Pat Harris in her storm-damaged housing complex in Port Arthur, Texas

While victims in Texas, Florida, and Puerto Rico are still reeling from the devastation of three hurricanes worsened by a warming climate, the Trump administration and GOP senators in the Gulf continued to push fossil fuel extraction.

On October 18, two senators who reject the science of climate change, Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Bill Cassidy (R-LA), teamed up to introduce a bill to fast-track the regulatory process for exporting small-scale liquefied natural gas (LNG). And on October 24, Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke proposed the largest ever sale of oil and gas leases in the United States. The plan would offer nearly 77 million acres of federal waters in the Gulf of Mexico for auction to the fossil fuel industry.

Why Hurricanes Harvey and Irma Won't Lead to Action on Climate Change

Man standing in floodwaters in front of damage from Hurricane Irma in Florida

By Scott Gabriel Knowles, Drexel University

It’s not easy to hold the nation’s attention for long, but three solid weeks of record-smashing hurricanes directly affecting multiple states and at least 20 million people will do it.

Clustered disasters hold our attention in ways that singular events cannot — they open our minds to the possibility that these aren’t just accidents or natural phenomena to be painfully endured. As such, they can provoke debates over the larger “disaster lessons” we should be learning. And I would argue the combination of Harvey and Irma has triggered such a moment.

What Hurricane Harvey Says About Risk, Climate, and Resilience

Hurricane Harvey from space

By Andrew Dessler, Texas A&M UniversityDaniel Cohan, Rice University, and Katharine Hayhoe, Texas Tech University

Hurricane Harvey has taught us many lessons, but the most valuable may be the oldest lesson of all, one we humans have been learning — and forgetting — since the dawn of time: how much we all have to lose when climate and weather disasters strike.

Curbing Climate Change: Why It's so Hard to Act in Time

Climate change action sign in front of Capitol at March for Science

By Timothy H. Dixon, University of South Florida

This summer I worked on the Greenland ice sheet, part of a scientific experiment to study surface melting and its contribution to Greenland’s accelerating ice losses. By virtue of its size, elevation and currently frozen state, Greenland has the potential to cause large and rapid increases to sea level as it melts.

When I returned, a nonscientist friend asked me what the research showed about future sea level rise. He was disappointed that I couldn’t say anything definite, since it will take several years to analyze the data. This kind of time lag is common in science, but it can make communicating the issues difficult. That’s especially true for climate change, where decades of data collection may be required to see trends.

A recent draft report on climate change by federal scientists exploits data captured over many decades to assess recent changes, and warns of a dire future if we don’t change our ways. Yet few countries are aggressively reducing their emissions in a way scientists say are needed to avoid the dangers of climate change.

While this lack of progress dismays people, it’s actually understandable.

Louisiana Senator Bill Cassidy Pushes Natural Gas as Climate Solution at Contentious Town Hall Meetings

Sen. Cassidy in front of a crowd at a public meeting

Louisiana Senator Bill Cassidy's constituents packed emotionally charged town hall meetings across the state during Congress’ February break, a trend seen in other meetings with lawmakers around the country. 

At Sen. Cassidy’s first town hall in Denham Springs, which was ground zero for the 1,000 year flood that devastated parts of southern Louisiana last year, the senator focused on flood recovery efforts.

While Sen. Cassidy mentioned that lowering greenhouse gas emissions would “theoretically” be good for sea level rise, he failed to connect climate change to the region’s extreme floods. Instead, he praised President Donald Trump’s goals of bringing back manufacturing jobs to the United States, which could then be powered by the nation’s natural gas reserves.

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