Report: US Sets Record ‘Billion-Dollar’ Disasters in 2023

On Monday, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) reported that the US has so far this year experienced 23 climate catastrophes and weather events costing $1B or more each, breaking the previous record of 22 set in 2020....

Report: US Sets Record ‘Billion-Dollar’ Disasters in 2023
Image credit: Unsplash
audio-thumbnail
0:00
/0:00

Facts

  • On Monday, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) reported that the US has so far this year experienced 23 climate catastrophes and weather events costing $1B or more each, breaking the previous record of 22 set in 2020.1
  • The disasters — totaling $57.6B in damages and claiming 253 lives — included 18 instances of severe weather, two floods, one hurricane, one wildfire, and one winter storm, with the costliest disasters including Hurricane Idalia in Florida, wildfires in Hawaii, and 145 tornadoes in the central US over the course of two days.2
  • Besides Hurricane Idalia and the Hawaii wildfires, which cost over $1B and $5.5B, respectively, other severe weather included a Minnesota hailstorm and storms in Nebraska, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, and Wisconsin.3
  • The NOAA's most recent estimate doesn't include the damage from Tropical Storm Hilary in California or the deep drought in the South and Midwest, as the agency is still calculating those costs.4
  • The 2023 disaster cost index ranks behind America's costliest disaster year of 2017, which combined a destructive California wildfire season and major hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria. The total cost that year was $383B.5

Sources: 1CBS, 2Al Jazeera, 3Guardian, 4Time and 5CNN.

Narratives

  • Establishment-critical narrative, as provided by Earthjustice. The Biden administration has made bold commitments on climate and environmental justice, but halfway into his term, there are signs that he over-promised and under-delivered. In particular, there is little or no progress in accelerating the transition away from fossil fuels. More must be done.
  • Pro-establishment narrative, as provided by Scientific American. While there's still a long way to go, Biden has made strong strides to address the climate issues: From the Inflation Reduction Act to setting concrete goals, the US is well positioned to mitigate climate change — a crisis that can no longer be ignored or denied.
  • Narrative C, as provided by Forbes. While climate change is an urgent issue, journalists and activists have an obligation to separate the facts from fiction and describe environmental problems honestly and accurately. The catastrophic framing of climate change does far more harm than good, not only by impacting the mental health of our youth but by alienating and polarizing large portions of the population.