March 25, 2023


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The overwhelming majority of US adults have been personally affected by excessive climate occasions previously 5 years, triggering critical well being and monetary issues in addition to property injury, in line with a brand new nationwide survey. And this might be simply the beginning, as international warming will improve the frequency and severity of utmost climate.

Picture credit score: Unsplash / Matt Palmer.

NPR, alongside the Robert Wooden Johnson Basis and the Harvard T.H. Chan College of Public Well being, surveyed over 2600 individuals. They checked out issues confronted by US households who’ve just lately skilled excessive climate occasions, in addition to broader experiences and views on local weather change and associated insurance policies.

The frequency of warmth waves, heavy rainfall, and massive hurricanes has elevated within the US, and the energy of those occasions has additionally elevated. Since 1991, for instance, the quantity of rain falling in very heavy precipitation occasions has been considerably above common. This has been extra seen within the Northeast, Midwest, and higher Nice Plains.

“Dealing with excessive climate has had a considerable influence on tens of millions of People, who’ve had critical property injury, well being, and monetary penalties,” Robert J. Blendon, co-director of the survey and professor of well being coverage and political evaluation emeritus at Harvard T.H. Chan College of Public Well being, informed NPR concerning the findings.

Local weather change and excessive climate

The survey confirmed warmth waves affected the most individuals by far, with over half of the respondents saying they’ve skilled excessive warmth. Final week, a warmth wave broke temperature data in a number of US cities, with over 100 million People underneath warmth alerts on account of a harmful mixture of warmth and humidity that affected 48 states.

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Excessive climate can be affecting individuals’s well being, with one-quarter of those that skilled excessive climate within the final 5 years claiming somebody of their family had a well being downside because of this. Wildfires had been very harmful, as 38% of the households affected by wildfires had somebody with a critical well being downside.

The survey additionally discovered widespread assist for presidency actions that defend individuals from excessive climate, reminiscent of upgrading infrastructure to stop floods. Individuals who personally skilled excessive climate usually tend to see local weather change as an enormous downside and to assist authorities motion to guard individuals from future disasters.

“It doesn’t shock me that there’s a excessive degree of assist for insurance policies to guard in opposition to future climate disasters,” John Kotcher, a professor on the Middle for Local weather Change Communication at George Mason College, informed NPR. “No person desires to have their home flooded. No person desires to have a wildfire encroaching on their residence.”

The survey highlighted how distressing these excessive climate occasions could be for individuals’s households — excessive climate occasions made extra frequent by local weather change. For most individuals, this interprets into additional stress and further prices, and insurance coverage help is insufficient. About 17% of these affected by excessive climate mentioned they’ve had monetary issues due to these occasions.

Most individuals find yourself coping with the prices of disasters themselves, the survey confirmed. Amongst those that had monetary issues or property injury after a catastrophe, over 70% had been both underinsured or uninsured. This implies the funding they acquired from the insurance coverage firm wasn’t sufficient to cowl a lot of the restore prices.

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A examine final 12 months confirmed that local weather change may wipe off as much as 18% of the GDP of the worldwide economic system by 2050 if temperatures rise by 3.2 levels Celsius. The forecast relies on temperature will increase staying on their present path and local weather pledges not being met. The influence was forecasted to be the toughest hit for Asian economies.