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How Much Is Climate Change Already Costing Us?

PHOTO: Superstorm Sandy was the second most expensive in U.S. history, and many meteorologists are convinced it was made worse by a changing climate. Photo credit: NOAA.
PHOTO: Superstorm Sandy was the second most expensive in U.S. history, and many meteorologists are convinced it was made worse by a changing climate. Photo credit: NOAA.
July 19, 2013

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – How much is damaging weather due to climate change costing Arkansas?

A look at insurance data suggests it's millions of dollars a year and rising.

Opponents of clean air limits on carbon pollution say the new rules will hurt the economy.

But an analysis of insurance claims says bad weather already cost Arkansas $645 million in 2012.

Laurie Johnson, chief economist with the Climate and Clean Air Program at the Natural Resources Defense Council, helped to analyze the data and says climate change is getting worse.

She points to the fact that more than half of the state is in a drought after suffering serious dry weather last year.

"As we warm up the planet more and more,” she says, “these events are going to happen more, they're going to last longer, and what we saw with this drought was one that is still not really over."

The insurance data shows 2012 as the second most expensive year on record. Thirteen of the 20 worst U.S. natural disasters since 1950 have occurred since 2000.

Critics say it's impossible to prove that climate change has caused any specific natural disaster.

Johnson says while that's true, a clear pattern also has emerged.

"Basically when you're warming up the atmosphere, you're turbocharging any natural weather event that happens,” she explains. “We can't say one specific event is due to climate change, but you can look at an overall pattern."

Last year's super storm Sandy knocked out power for 8.5 million people, and was the second most costly storm in history, after Hurricane Katrina.

Last year's drought was the biggest since the 1930s and hit more than 65 percent of the country.

Johnson says it's possible that these kinds of events are becoming the new normal.

"Much more extreme storm,” she says. “Much more extreme precipitation, so we have more flooding. Much hotter over the course of the year. And if you look at what's happened, records have been broken everywhere."





Dan Heyman, Public News Service - AR