In 2023, the United States set a sobering record. The country endured 23 separate weather and climate disasters, each leading to at least $1 billion in damage1. This breaks the previous record of 22 set in 20201.
The Rising Cost of Climate Change
The total cost of these events exceeded $57.6 billion1. More than 250 people lost their lives in these disasters1. The disasters included 18 severe weather events, two flooding events, one tropical cyclone (Hurricane Idalia), one wildfire event, and one winter storm event1.
The Undeniable Fingerprints of Climate Change
These record-breaking numbers are a stark reminder of the worsening trend in costly disasters, many of which bear the undeniable fingerprints of climate change1. Rachel Cletus of the Union of Concerned Scientists, which was not involved in the NOAA report, stated, "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"1.
As we look to the future, it's clear that the choices we make now will determine the extent of climate change we experience. The number of billion-dollar disasters has been increasing, with the U.S. averaging 18 billion-dollar disasters a year over the past five years1. The total cost of these 371 events since 1980 exceeds $2.615 trillion1.
The costliest year for weather disasters was 2017, with $383 billion in damage. This was due to a disastrous wildfire season in California along with Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria1.
The data is clear: climate change is impacting all regions and all sectors of the United States1. It's important for us to recognize that how much climate change we will be experiencing in the future depends on the choices that we make now1.