Damages From US Disasters Totaled $306 Billion In 2017

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Want to know when the corporations and politicians will pay attention to climate change? It won’t come about because of fancy speeches, marches, or T-shirts. It will happen when the financial cost of natural disasters associated with global warming becomes too great for insurers to cover without jacking their rates sky high. Money makes the world go round and losing money will bring Trumpies, conservatives, and reactionaries to their senses. After the losses that piled up in 2017, that day may be getting closer.

cost of natural disasters 2017
Credit: Royal Navy

NOAA calculates losses in the United States related to hurricanes, wildfires, hail, flooding, tornadoes, and drought in 2017 totaled $306 billion. That is a lot of cash, folks. In all, there were 16 disasters last year with more than a billion dollars in damages. 2011 had the same number of disasters but losses in that year totaled a mere $215 billion. NOAA adjusts the totals for inflation and has been keeping track of billion dollar disasters since 1980. Here’s the breakdown:

  • Hurricane Harvey cost $125 billion, second only to Katrina in 2005.
  • Hurricane Maria cost $90 billion, putting it in third place, although the damage to Puerto Rico has not been fully calculated yet.
  • Hurricane Irma cost $50 billion, making it the fifth most expensive storm ever.
  • Wildfires in the West caused $18 billion in damage — triple the amount of fire damage than the second costliest year.

“While we have to be careful about knee jerk cause-effect discussions, the National Academy of Science and recent peer reviewed literature continue to show that some of today’s extremes have climate change fingerprints on them,” University of Georgia meteorology professor Marshall Shepherd tells The Guardian. Shepherd is a past president of the American Meteorological Society.

It’s worth noting that the crooks in Congress eliminated tax deductions for casualty losses so they could stuff more money into the wallets of their wealthy patrons in the egregiously misnamed tax reform bill last year. Good news, America. You get an infinitesimal cut in your tax rate but your taxable income is going up. Gotta love those Republican stooges.

Property Casualty 360 reported in September that insurers could lose almost $190 billion in 2017. Once insurance companies begin adjusting their rates to cover their increased risks, corporations will send their $1,000 an hour lobbyists to plead with Congress to do something. You can almost hear the pitiful wails rising to a crescendo already. And that’s when the scales will fall from people’s eyes and Trump’s idiotic fossil fuel agenda will be buried forever. It can’t happen too soon for the environment.

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Steve Hanley

Steve writes about the interface between technology and sustainability from his home in Florida or anywhere else The Force may lead him. He is proud to be "woke" and doesn't really give a damn why the glass broke. He believes passionately in what Socrates said 3000 years ago: "The secret to change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old but on building the new."

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