WASHINGTON, DC – Ninety-six percent of Americans live in a county hit by at least one weather-related disaster in the last five years, according to a new interactive map using federal government data. Scientists say global warming is already exacerbating some extreme weather events and their impacts.
“We used to think of climate change as a problem that would happen someday, somewhere,” said Anna Aurilio, director of Environment America’s Global Warming Solutions program. “But sadly, our extreme weather map shows that global warming is happening now, and it’s already hitting close to home.”
Since September 2010, weather-related disasters -- from Superstorm Sandy to the drought still ravaging California -- were declared in all 50 states and in Washington, D.C, according to the online map created by Environment America and Frontier Group.
Scientists predict unchecked global warming will increase the severity or the frequency of many extreme weather events. Hurricanes are likely to be more powerful and deliver more rainfall because of warmer temperatures, while in some regions the potential for drought will increase.
“Just as steroids make a baseball player stronger, climate change is already exacerbating many of our weather extremes,” said Texas Tech researcher Dr. Katharine Hayhoe, who reviewed the fact sheet released along with today’s map. “And as the planet continues to warm, we’re increasing the risks associated with extreme weather.”
In addition to statistics for recent weather-related disasters declared by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the map includes case studies and personal stories from Americans impacted by extreme weather events across the country.
“The 2015 Memorial Day Weekend flood of the Blanco River was an unprecedented, historic, catastrophic event,” began the story from Scott from Wimberley, Texas, where deadly floods struck last spring. “I speak for many in saying that we’ve lost many personal possessions that can not be replaced; family photos, baby books, family heirlooms, furniture, a lot of our family history…gone forever.”
“The drought in California has hit every single resident hard. Living in Northern California, my family is one of those families struggling to reduce water from being wasted,” wrote Julia from Kensington, California. “I now also track the path of wildfires in Northern California hoping they can be stopped. Yet I watch them creep ever closer to my home and family. It's hard to watch the state I love go through all of this at once.”
The analysis comes just weeks before President Obama and other world leaders convene in Paris to forge an international agreement to slash global warming emissions. More than 150 countries making up more than 90 percent of the world’s climate pollution have already pledged reductions.
The map is also being unveiled as U.S. Senate leaders seek to undo the Clean Power Plan, the centerpiece of President Obama’s plan to address climate change, and as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency holds public hearings on implementing the plan.
Since the pre-industrial era, average global temperature has increased by nearly a degree Celsius, and climate scientists view another degree increase as untenable, leading to increasingly extreme weather events that could make parts of the world uninhabitable.
“To avoid even more devastating climate impacts,” said Aurilio, “we need our leaders to act boldly to slash carbon pollution and move us toward 100 percent clean, renewable energy.”