The growing cost of climate-enhanced extreme weather disasters

You remember that famous “blue marble” image of earth taken by NASA astronauts?

By NASA/Apollo 17 crew; taken by either Harrison Schmitt or Ron Evans

The photo was shot on December 7, 1972, by the crew of the Apollo 17.

The satellite images I see looking down on earth lately, look very different from that 1972 photo.

I see a series of massive swirling hurricanes like Harvey, Irma, Jose and Katia.

NOAA

I see dense smoke billowing skyward in the western US and Canada, driving a dirty gray smudge all the way across the U.S.

I’ve seen a dirty brown bathtub ring flowing around the Gulf of Mexico, the out-wash from Harvey’s record Texas floods.

And you can see one-third of Bangladesh under water. More than 1,200 people have died in extreme flooding in India and Bangladesh.

This week in Updraft I wrote about the increasingly clear climate change connections to these seemingly unrelated extreme weather events.

Then on this week’s MPR Climate Cast,  I asked several weather and climate experts for some perspective on how we should view the impacts from these extreme weather events through a climate change lens.

  1. Listen Climate Cast: Harvey, Irma and the mounting costs of climate-enhanced weather events

    Sept. 7, 2017

Big picture perspective on current extreme weather events 

Many people I talk with are deeply affected by the magnitude of these storms. My job on Climate Cast is to assess links between these events, and climate change. And the best climate science says we really need to call these what they are.

Climate change-enhanced extreme weather events.

At some point, these climate change-enhanced disasters are likely to take an even bigger toll. And climate science has been predicting this very scenario for decades. These climate-driven shock waves may reach a point where the impacts to all of us become much greater. We seem to be reaching a new level of ‘climate disruption.’

So, it makes sense for us to ask, as that happens how will we react? How many thousands of Americans, and how many millions globally will be displaced? How will it impact our economy? Who will suffer from the lack of planning? Who will pay for the mounting losses? And how much will we all suffer from decades of not taking seriously what the climate scientists told us was coming?

Those questions are newsworthy today. They also have bigger economic and scientific implications in the coming years.

We didn’t leave the stone age because we ran out of stones. We left because we found a better way to do things. Science shows us technological advances today can help us mitigate climate change, and create massive economic opportunity in the process.

Climate scientists, and these climate change-fueled extreme weather events may be telling us it’s time to walk down that inevitable road to the future sooner, rather than later.