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This Is What Climate Change Cost the U.S. in 2012

Billions of bucks and hundreds of lives, to start.

by Brian Merchant
Dec 22 2012, 4:23pm

2012 was a nasty, disastrous year when it came to weather, and climate change almost certainly made it nastier and more disastrous.

Right off the bat we do the disclaimer: calculating the costs of climate change is an inexact science, and it's still impossible to determine precisely "how much" global warming influenced or exacerbated any particular extreme weather event.

But there's little doubt amongst scientists that a warmer world is like steroids for drought and storms like Sandy, and that more folks will suff

The National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration is out with a year-end report that tallies the costs of climate and weather-related events, and, unsurprisingly, they are enormous. Here is an estimated the toll of climate disasters this year alone:

349 deaths. Including:

131 who died in Hurricane Sandy

123 who died as a direct result of the summer heat wave and drought.

Eight were killed in wildfires in the western U.S.

Nine in Hurricane Isaac.

Seven died when the Mississippi River flooded.

Again, it is inappropriate to blame each of these events squarely on climate change–but each were probably more dangerous because of it.

Around $200 billion dollars. Yes, with a "B."

There were 11 different weather events that wreaked over $1 billion in damage, the leader being Hurricane Sandy.

$100 billion is the high-end estimate of the total damage from Hurricane Sandy alone. That amount alone is more than the GDP of more than 100 of the world's countries. As the Guardian notes, "Some cost estimates for hurricane Sandy alone have approached $100bn, and the drought is likely to be nearly, if not more, expensive."

That drought, by the way, is still happening.

62 percent of the nation remains in a state of drought, which is down from the high, or rather, low-water mark of 80 percent.

80 percent. Yes, this was a year when four-fifths of the entire nation was lacking for water.

Here is a complete list of all of the 11 billion dollar+ disaster events:

  • Southeast/Ohio Valley Tornadoes — March 2–3 2012
  • Texas Tornadoes — April 2–3 2012
  • Great Plains Tornadoes — April 13–14 2012
  • Midwest/Ohio Valley Severe Weather — April 28–May 1 2012
  • Southern Plains/Midwest/Northeast Severe Weather — May 25–30 2012
  • Rockies/Southwest Severe Weather — June 6–12 2012
  • Plains/East/Northeast Severe Weather (“Derecho”) — June 29–July 2 2012
  • Hurricane Isaac — August 26–31 2012
  • Western Wildfires — Summer–Fall, 2012
  • Hurricane Sandy — October 29–31 2012
  • U.S. Drought/Heatwave — throughout 2012

There are other costs. Livestock died off, leaving ranchers in the hole for tens of millions dollars. Same with crops and farmers. The decline in crop yield here in the U.S. caused food prices to rise globally, imposing additional costs on billions more. And all this is just considering U.S.-related climate costs: hundreds of billions of dollars, hundreds dead. Billions more in indirect costs. It was worse than the year before.

And next year is probably going to be even worse still.