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Climate change is taking an enormous toll on US residents — nearly all of them


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 harm, in accordance with a new nationwide survey. And this might be simply the beginning, as international warming will enhance the frequency and severity of extreme weather.

Image credit score: Unsplash / Matt Palmer.

NPR, alongside the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, 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 increased in 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 Great Plains.

“Facing excessive climate has had a considerable influence on hundreds of thousands of Americans, who’ve had critical property harm, 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 School of Public Health, instructed NPR in regards to the findings.

Climate 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. Last week, a heat wave broke temperature data in a number of US cities, with over 100 million Americans below warmth alerts on account of a harmful mixture of warmth and humidity that affected 48 states.

Extreme 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 have 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 shield individuals from excessive climate, akin to upgrading infrastructure to stop floods. People 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 Center for Climate Change Communication at George Mason University, instructed NPR. “Nobody desires to have their home flooded. Nobody 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 additional prices, and insurance coverage help is insufficient. About 17% of these affected by excessive climate stated they’ve had monetary issues due to these occasions.

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

A examine last year 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 is predicated 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.

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