Sep 4, 2021 - Energy & Environment

Report: Nearly a third of Americans endured a weather disaster this summer

 person sorts through belongings from their flooded home in a Queens neighborhood

A person sorts through belongings from their flooded home in a Queens neighborhood that saw massive flooding from the remnants of Hurricane Ida on Sept. 3. Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Nearly 1 in 3 Americans experienced a weather disaster since June, according to a Washington Post analysis of federal disaster declarations.

Why it matters: The data underscores the extent to which climate change and a warming planet are increasingly impacting Americans' lives on a daily basis, the Post notes.

Driving the news: At least 388 people have died from hurricanes, floods, heat waves and wildfires since June in the U.S., per media reports and government records obtained by the Post.

  • Additionally, 64% of people live in areas that experienced a prolonged heat wave, which are not officially considered disasters but can be life-threatening.
  • Over the course of the summer, extreme heat waves scorched the Pacific Northwest, wildfires raged across the West and flash floods from storms killed dozens of people in the Northeast, among other weather events.

Between the lines: The Post based its analysis on FEMA-declared severe storms, fires, hurricanes, storms and floods.

The big picture: Atmospheric CO2 concentrations were higher in 2019 than at any time in at least 2 million years, and the past 50 years saw the fastest temperature increases in at least 2,000 years, according to an assessment by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) published last month.

  • Weather and climate events are becoming increasingly common and severe and rising sea levels are flooding coastal areas with regularity, Axios' Andrew Freedman reports.
  • The world must approximately halve emissions by the end of the decade to have a chance of avoiding the worst effects of warming, the Post writes.

What they're saying: "What we are doing with global warming is making ourselves play a game that is rigged more and more against us because of our own actions," Claudia Tebaldi, a researcher at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and a lead author of the IPCC’s climate report, told the Post.

  • "If we want to limit these probabilities, if we want to limit the damages, then we should start to do something for real about mitigating," Tebaldi said. "And we need to start now."

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