The year 2023 is not yet over but experts are warning the United States has set a record for costly natural disasters that are being turbo-charged by climate change.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported on Monday that the US experienced 23 separate weather and climate disasters, including storms to wildfires, which have each caused at least $1 billion in damage between January and August 2023.
“With approximately four months still left in the year, 2023 has already surpassed the previous record of 22 events seen in all of 2020,” NOAA said.
The NOAA report said this year’s disasters killed more than 250 people and caused over $57.6 billion in damages.
And the number could climb higher.
NOAA is still calculating the cost of Tropical Storm Hilary, which wreaked havoc across California in August, and a drought in the South and Midwest. There’s also an “above normal” forecast for this year’s hurricane season, which will continue through the end of November.
“These record-breaking numbers, during a year that is on track to be one of the hottest ever, are sobering and the latest confirmation of a worsening trend in costly disasters, many of which bear the undeniable fingerprints of climate change,” Rachel Cletus of the Union of Concerned Scientists said in a statement.
According to NOAA, this meteorological summer (June 1 through August 31) was the US’ 15th-hottest on record as the average temperature for the contiguous US was 73.0 degrees, 1.6 degrees above average.
Last year, there were 18 climate extremes that caused at least $1 billion in damage each, totaling more than $165 billion.
NOAA has begun tracking billion-dollar disasters since 1980. Over the past five years, the US has averaged 18 billion-dollar disasters a year.
Between 1980 and 2023, 61 tropical cyclones, 185 severe storms, 22 wildfires, 42 flooding events, 22 winter storms, 30 droughts, and nine freezes costing $1 billion or more impacted the U.S, according to NOAA.
The total cost of those 371 events exceeds $2.615 trillion.
Historical responsibility for climate change largely falls on the US, which has released more than 509Gt of carbon dioxide (CO2) since 1850 and is responsible for the largest share of historical emissions.
A Carbon Brief analysis shows that the US has released 20% of the global CO2 total, which is not only threatening the country but the entire Earth.
Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Deanne Criswell warned in August that the organization’s disaster fund could dry up within weeks and delay the federal response to natural disasters.