2 out of 3 Californians Live in Areas Hit by Recent Weather Disasters

Media Contacts

New Report Says Global Warming to Bring More Extreme Weather

Environment California Research & Policy Center

Los Angeles, CA – After another year in which many parts of the country were hit by scorching heat, devastating wildfires, crippling drought, severe storms and record flooding, a new Environment California Research & Policy Center report finds that weather-related disasters are already affecting hundreds of millions of Americans, and documents how global warming could lead to certain extreme weather events becoming even more common or more severe in the future.

The report found that 2 out of 3 Californians live in counties hit by at least one weather-related disaster and Los Angeles County has been hit by 7 federally declared weather-related disasters since 2007.

“Twenty-five million Californians have endured extreme weather, causing extremely big problems for Californians’ health, environment and economy,” said Michelle Kinman, clean energy advocate with Environment California Research & Policy Center. “Given that global warming will likely fuel even more extreme weather, our leaders at the state and federal levels need to cut dangerous carbon pollution now.”

The new report, entitled “In the Path of the Storm,” examined county-level weather-related disaster declaration data from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for 2007 through 2012 to determine how many Californians live in counties hit by recent weather disasters. The complete county-level data can be viewed through an interactive map available on Environment California Research & Policy Center’s website. The report also details the latest science on the projected influence of global warming on heavy rain and snow; heat, drought and wildfires; and hurricanes and coastal storms. Finally, the report explores how the damage from even non-extreme weather events could increase due to other impacts of global warming like sea level rise.

Key findings from the Environment California Research & Policy Center report include:

  • Since 2007, federally declared weather-related disasters affected 20 counties in California housing 25,956,000 people—or more than two-thirds of Californians. 
  • Since 2007, Los Angeles County has experienced 7 federally declared weather-related disasters including wildfires, floods and mudslides.
  • Nationally, federally declared weather-related disasters have affected counties housing 243 million people since 2007—or nearly four out of five Americans.  Nationally, 11 weather disasters      inflicted economic damages of $1 billion or more. 

As Congresswoman Barbara Lee stated, “Now more than ever, we must end subsidies to the fossil fuel industry and Big Oil and double down on cutting greenhouse gas emissions, while supporting clean, alternative energy sources.  Vulnerable communities are bearing the biggest brunt of extreme weather caused by climate change.”

Kinman noted that every weather event is now a product of a climate system where global warming “loads the dice” for extreme weather, though in different ways for different types of extreme weather.

“Extreme weather is happening, it is causing very serious problems, and global warming increases the likelihood that we’ll see even more extreme weather in the future,” said Kinman. “Carbon pollution from our power plants, cars and trucks is fueling global warming, and so tackling global warming demands that we cut emissions of carbon pollution from those sources.”

Environment California Research & Policy Center called on decision-makers at the local, state and federal level to cut carbon pollution by expanding efforts to clean up the largest sources of pollution, shifting to clean, renewable energy, using less energy overall, and avoiding new dirty energy projects that make the carbon pollution problem even worse.

The report was released as the Obama administration is considering whether to approve construction of the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, as the Environmental Protection Agency is developing carbon pollution limits for power plants, and as the Brown administration continues face stiff opposition from the oil industry in its implementation of AB 32, the state’s global warming law.

“Between the millions of Americans who have spoken in support of strong action to address global warming, and the threat that extreme weather poses to our communities and future generations, we desperately need the president to follow his recent strong statements on global warming with equally strong action,” said Kinman. “We urge President Obama to finish implementing strong limits on carbon pollution for power plants, and to reject the dangerous Keystone XL tar sands pipeline.” 


Environment California Research & Policy Center is a statewide nonprofit environmental research and policy organization working to protect California’s air, water and open spaces. More information can be found at www.environmentcalifornia.org/center.