This article discusses how the price of climate change is going up, and how much we could save if we worked on stopping it. Costs in dollars, to the environment and to living things could fall if we reduce emissions and adapt quicker.
Flooding, tornadoes, droughts, wildfires: the evidence of climate change is not just mounting, it’s barreling down on us – inexorable as a landslide. The cost of U.S. weather and climate disasters last year hit an all-time record of $306.2 billion, a figure higher than the combined annual budgets of New York and all the New England states.
Going back as far as the 1980s, our country had an annual average of six “billion-dollar weather events” (where damages exceed $1 billion) until the last five years. From 2013 through 2017, that annual average rose to 11.6 events. Disasters are not just getting more numerous; they’re growing costlier. Rebuilding from Hurricane Florence flooding, Moody’s estimates, could run $50 billion, with costs of Hurricane Michael still to be tallied.
Economic losses don’t begin to account for the full ecological devastation wrought by multiplying disasters. Satellites recorded the inky plume of pollution – extending far off the coast of North Carolina – carrying animal waste and toxic chemicals into the marine ecosystem. Little is known about the long-term costs to fisheries or about the health effects of noxious runoff on drinking-water supplies, groundwater reserves and farm soils.
The wildfires raging out West, beyond aggravating air pollution and carbon emissions, also pose a grave hazard to aquatic health and water supplies.