Science Agency Confirms 2022 One of the Deadliest, Costliest Years for US Extreme Weather, Climate Disasters

Statement by Dr. Rachel Cleetus, Union of Concerned Scientists

Published Jan 10, 2023

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WASHINGTON—The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) today released its annual report tallying the toll of extreme weather and climate disasters in the United States for 2022. According to the agency, 474 lives were lost in 18 separate disasters that each reported damages of $1 billion or more with a total economic cost of $165 billion last year. Per the data, 2022 ranks 3rd in terms of costs of extreme weather events and was also determined to be the 8th deadliest year recorded. Climate change is worsening as the planet warms and contributing to many of these types of disasters—including extreme heat, wildfires, drought, intensified storms, and flooding. It is also colliding with other ongoing socioeconomic challenges and maladaptive practices, increasing harm to people and property.

Below is a statement by Dr. Rachel Cleetus, the policy director and lead economist for the Climate and Energy Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS).

“This sobering data paints a dire picture of how woefully unprepared the United States is to cope with the mounting climate crisis and its intersection with other socioeconomic challenges in people’s daily lives. Science clearly shows that climate change is contributing to a worsening trend for many types of disasters. As the planet warms, not only will these extreme weather events batter the nation’s economy and infrastructure, but the devastation to people and places will only grow. The calamitous toll and trauma imposed by extreme weather and climate disasters have and will continue to hit some people harder than others, with communities of color, low-income communities, and communities that have endured overlapping or sequential disasters often bearing the brunt of the harms.

“This catastrophic snapshot of what people across the United States faced in 2022 mirrors the grim realities around the world, with many millions on the frontlines of devastating climate change-fueled disasters. To curtail the worst climate and extreme weather disasters—as well as slow-onset climate impacts like sea level rise—major-emitting nations must take drastic actions to rein in global warming emissions. Policymakers must also invest equitably in climate adaptation measures.

“Rather than responding in a one-off manner to disasters within the United States, Congress should implement a comprehensive national climate resilience strategy commensurate with the harm and risks we’re already facing. This strategy should be designed to enable better coordination across federal, state, and local agencies, as well as invest proactively to help protect and prepare communities ahead of disasters. Additionally, it’s imperative that policymakers work together to fully realize and build upon policy progress to date, including through robust implementation of the Inflation Reduction Act and by moving forward the strongest possible carbon pollution standards. All levels of government and the courts should hold fossil fuel companies accountable for their continued role in the climate crisis and deceptive practices related to their destructive products.”

If you have any questions or would like to arrange an interview with Dr. Cleetus, please contact UCS Climate and Energy Media Manager Ashley Siefert Nunes. Additionally, a new blogpost on this topic by Dr. Cleetus is available here. UCS also has experts available who can speak about the following:

  • The connection between climate change and extreme weather events, such as more frequent and intense extreme heat, wildfires, drought, storms and floods.
  • Why UCS coined the term “Danger Season” to describe a new reality: a slew of extreme weather events worsened by climate change that tend to concentrate and collide with each other during the summer months.
  • What local, state, and federal governments can do to lower carbon emissions, transform the economy, and ensure communities are adequately prepared for climate change.
  • How the United States can meet its climate pledge under the Paris Agreement to decrease its emissions by at least 50 to 52 percent below 2005 levels within the next eight years.
  • Recent attribution science showing the responsibility of fossil fuel companies for climate impacts and damages.