In 2023, better data and tools will yield new insights into how Americans are responding to global warming. This is a mixed photo.
Millions of people are staying out of dangerous weather, and millions more are driving into it. But we are still not doing enough to address the root causes of climate change or adapt to the changes already underway.
Many of the most important insights came from the First Street Foundation, which analyzes the effects of global warming on U.S. communities and real estate.
Taking floods, the most common weather disaster in the United States, in December the foundation showed that new precipitation models now mean more than 1.3 million people can expect a once-in-a-century flood every eight years. It was reported that First Street found that more than half of us live in areas where the potential for flooding is twice as high as previously estimated.
In 2018, researchers at the University of Bristol used advanced modeling tools to estimate that 41 million Americans are at risk of a 100-year flood, which the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) found that this was more than three times the estimated value. First Street’s new analysis is bad news not only for people who like to live near water, but also for taxpayers, insurance companies and governments struggling to balance budgets. According to federal data, the number of disasters causing more than $1 billion in damage per year will increase from three per year in 1980 to 25 by 2023. Federal disaster relief only kicks in when local governments and states run out of resources.
But even these numbers underestimate the growing threat of flooding in the United States. Once-in-a-century events are no longer the biggest risks. Recent monster hurricanes such as Matthew, Irma, and Harvey have caused 500- and 1,000-year floods. By 2017, the United States had experienced at least 24 once-in-500-year events.
The impact on the community is predictable. Repeated flooding causes property values to fall, insurance premiums to rise, and local budgets to contend with damage to infrastructure. Those who can afford it move out, leaving low-income and elderly homeowners behind. Communities must choose between raising property taxes for remaining homeowners or accepting a decline in public services. Both create pressure for more people to retire.
That’s not the only problem. Last February, First Street reported that flood-prone properties along the US coast were overvalued by $237 billion, creating a bubble that threatened the stability of the US housing market.
Millions of Americans have already begun moving away from areas at high risk of daily flooding, First Street reports. Approximately 3.2 million Americans have left flood-prone areas, creating “abandonment zones” in cities. Over the next 30 years that number he predicts will increase to 11 million.
Demographers have predicted for years that climate change will cause millions of Americans to move to safer places. A 2016 University of Georgia study estimated that rising sea levels could engulf 13 million people by 2100, 70% of them from southeastern states. But while millions of people are moving away from areas at risk of flooding, First Street is seeing a disturbing opposite trend. That means Americans are moving “in droves” to flood-prone areas in southern and southeastern states.
Americans are also flocking to places at risk of extreme heat. Axios reports that “nearly all of the fastest-growing major metropolitan areas across the United States are experiencing significant increases in temperature, putting many at risk for other natural disasters.” Huge numbers of Americans are flocking to the nation’s warmest cities. ”
According to an Axios study, Las Vegas’ population grew by 181 percent from 1991 to 2021, and the number of hot days increased by 115 percent. In Austin, Texas, the population grew by 167 percent and 553 percent during the sweltering days. In McAllen, Texas, extremely hot days increased by his 724% and population increased by her 118%. (Axios defined “very hot” as temperatures above the 95th percentile for each region from 1991 to 2020.)
Not long ago, cities in the Northeast and Midwest began promoting themselves as “climate havens” where people could take refuge from deadly weather. But while climate impacts may be less severe in these regions, no place in the United States is immune to record heat, drought, flooding, wildfires, rising sea levels, and coastal storms. Experts agree. Americans will never find a place where life is good. The best a person can hope for is a place where life isn’t so bad.
In 2020, ProPublica and The New York Times published a series on global migration due to climate change. They found that one in two Americans is facing a decline in the quality of their environment, and that the country is “on the brink of major change.” The report said that by 2070, at least 4 million Americans could be “living on the fringes, clearly outside the ideal niche for human life.”
“Policymakers have left America unprepared for what happens next, and are currently unsure which communities to save (often at prohibitive cost) and which “We face a cruel choice: whether to sacrifice or not,” the authors concluded. “It’s already started.”
Scientists and researchers have been warning us about this mess for nearly 40 years, but government leaders remain in control of the fossil fuel industry. Thanks to chronic misconduct in Congress, taxpayers and society at large subsidized the industry, resulting in more than $757 billion in economic, social, and environmental costs in 2022 alone, according to the International Monetary Fund.
In 2021, climate scientists say that most of the world’s proven fossil fuel reserves are “unextractable,” even though there is a 50-50 chance of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, a priority goal of the Paris Climate Agreement. ‘, he warned. Major oil and gas companies are ignoring the findings. The International Energy Agency predicts the industry will invest nearly $530 in exploration and production in 2023, the highest amount since 2015, when countries signed the Paris Agreement.
In November, U.S. government scientists released the Fifth National Climate Assessment (NCA5). “Climate change is making it harder to maintain safe homes and healthy families. Reliable public services. Sustainable economies. Thriving ecosystems, cultures and traditions. And strong communities,” they say. said. “Many of the extreme events and harmful effects that people are already experiencing will become even worse as the world warms and new risks emerge.”
In summary, in the words of NCA5 contributor Dr. Christina Dahl, 2023 will see us face “a flood of catastrophic events and the toll each will have on our lives and our economies.” He told me. However, our government’s response remains “woefully insufficient and incremental.”
The new year presents another opportunity to elect national, state, and local leaders with the backbone to slow population growth. Shall I take it?
William S. BeckerCo-editor and contributor of Democracy Unchained: How to Rebuild Government for the People and contributor of Democracy in a Hotter Time, named one of the five best science books of 2023 by Nature magazine There is also. He currently serves as executive director of the Presidential Climate Action Project (PCAP), a nonpartisan climate policy think tank unaffiliated with the White House.
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