Extreme Weather Cost A Record Breaking $1.5 Trillion And Counting in 2017

Extreme Weather Cost A Record Breaking $1.5 Trillion And Counting in 2017

The Trump administration, and its allies in Congress, are fighting a losing war. They continue to press forward for the development of oil, gas, and coal when the rest of the world understands the implication of that folly. Global warming is the most pressing issue for our time. Period.

The thing is governments really have two choices when it comes to managing the impact on its people from global warming: spend money on trying to reduce the problem or spend money on cleaning up the catastrophes.

The Trump administration is on the hook for the catastrophe. A report released Monday by The National Centers for Environmental Information pegged the total cost this year at $1.5 trillion, including estimates for Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria. (And that doesn’t even begin to count the human toll, lost lives, lost jobs, lost opportunity.)

I witnessed firsthand the impact of Hurricane Maria on the island of Dominica last month. We keep hearing stories about the power grid being down (similar to Puerto Rico) and you think, Why? It’s been months. Why aren’t the lights on? Then you see nearly every electrical pole on the island sideways. The entire grid needs to be rebuilt (or better, rethought) and that’s decades of infrastructure. So the figure of $1.5 trillion is far short of what will be needed. Nearly every electrical line, every other house, the damage was so widespread it’s impossible to overstate. And that’s just one island. Multiple the effect across the region. The planet.

Even the United States.

The Centers for Environmental Information says there were 16 weather and climate disasters with losses exceeding $1 billion each across the country last year. These events included one drought, two flooding events, one severe freeze, eight severe storms, three cyclones, and one extraordinary wildfire. These “events,” as the center defines them, resulted in 362 deaths.

Turns out 2017 was a record-breaking year. “In total, the U.S. was impacted by 16 separate billion-dollar disaster events tying 2011 for the record number of billion-dollar disasters for an entire calendar year,” the report said. “In fact, 2017 arguably has more events than 2011 given that our analysis traditionally counts all U.S. billion-dollar wildfires, as regional-scale, seasonal events, not as multiple isolated events. More notable than the high frequency of these events is the cumulative cost, which exceeds $300 billion in 2017—a new U.S. annual record.”

A similar report was published by the Government Accountability Office, including a recommendation that Executive Office of the President “identify significant climate risks and craft appropriate federal responses.”

But instead of trying to reduce the impact—and the costs of weather-related catastrophe—the Trump administration continues on course for new development of oil and gas. The Interior Department announced new rules that, if enacted, will open up nearly all of the United States coastal waters to more oil and gas development beginning next year.

“By proposing to open up nearly the entire OCS for potential oil and gas exploration, the United States can advance the goal of moving from aspiring for energy independence to attaining energy dominance,” said Vincent DeVito, counselor for Energy Policy at Interior, in the news release. “This decision could bring unprecedented access to America’s extensive offshore oil and gas resources and allow us to better compete with other oil-rich nations.”

Or as Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke put it: “The important thing is we strike the right balance to protect our coasts and people while still powering America and achieving American Energy Dominance.”

Dominance is such a funny word. How can any nation be dominant in the face of hurricanes that are ever more powerful and destructive? How does energy dominance work when tens of thousands of Americans will have to move because their homes are no longer there because of fire or storms? What happens if that number grows into the hundreds of thousands? Millions? How can we afford to spend trillions of dollars rebuilding what we have now?

A group of elders on the Bering Sea immediately condemned the Interior Department’s offshore drilling plan. “We told them that in person last October and again in writing, that there were 76 tribes in these regions opposed to this,” said the statement from the elders. “The draft plan implies that Bering Sea communities were ‘generally supportive of some’ oil and gas activity. This is not accurate and there is no evidence of this from Bering Sea communities. For decades, our people have opposed oil and gas activity and we continue to oppose it today.

"The northern Bering Sea is a very fragile ecosystem. The marine mammals that we rely on use it as their highway and they follow specific migration routes. That is how we know when and where to find them. The noise and vibration associated with drilling will interfere with their sonar and disrupt their migrations. Then we the coastal people will lose our primary food source.”

There is a connection between developing oil and gas and paying the high costs to clean up after a storm. One side of the ledger goes to a few; the oil and gas “industry.” The folks who bought and paid for this administration.

The other side of the ledger is the rest of us. The taxpayers who will foot the bill for this continued folly.

And on the Bering Sea? The folks who live there are one storm away from a tragedy. As the elders put it: “Our people and our way of life are being exposed to danger and we do not understand why.”

This article originally appeared on YES! Magazine

About The Author

Mark Trahant wrote this article for TrahantReports.com. Mark is the Charles R. Johnson Endowed Professor of Journalism at the University of North Dakota and a member of The Shoshone-Bannock Tribes. He writes a regular column at YES!, where he is a contributing editor. On Twitter @TrahantReports.

Related Books

Product Description: "Shoot the Indian" is a provocative look at media and politics written by leading Native American journalists, academics and leaders. This book will change the way you perceive Native America, particularly if all your know about Indians is what you learned from the media. Published in 2007 by the American Indian Policy & Media Initiative, it examines the impact of the news media coverage with U.S. Indian policy. Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell said of the Initiative, "The founding meeting focused on how to build and communicate an effective defense of historic truths, and the legal and self-governance rights of tribal peoples in the United States." Tim Johnson, Associate Director of the Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian, said, "'Shoot the Indian' reveals the historic roots of contemporary rhetoric in media and government about Native Americans; it's a strategic guide that colleges, tribal nations and anyone who cares about Native America should have in their libraries."

Product Description: Unfolding Futures: Indigenous Ways of Knowing for the Twenty-First Century
Philip J. Deloria, K. Tsianina Lomawaima, Bryan McKinley Jones Brayboy, Mark N. Trahant, Loren Ghiglione, Douglas Medin & Ned Blackhawk
Nenabozho Goes Fishing: A Sovereignty Story
Heidi Kiiwetinepinesiik Stark & Kekek Jason Stark
Recognition, Antiracism & Indigenous Futures: A View from Connecticut
Amy E. Den Ouden
Alaska’s Conflicting Objectives
Rosita Kaaháni Worl & Heather Kendall-Miller
Making ‘Aha: Independent Hawaiian Pasts, Presents & Futures
Noelani Goodyear-Ka‘ōpua & Bryan Kamaoli Kuwada
Genetic Ancestry Testing with Tribes: Ethics, Identity & Health Implications
Nanibaa’ A. Garrison
Reclaiming Representations & Interrupting the Cycle of Bias Against Native Americans
Arianne E. Eason, Laura M. Brady & Stephanie A. Fryberg
Why Don’t More Indians Do Better in School? The Battle between U.S. Schooling & American Indian/Alaska Native Education
Bryan McKinley Jones Brayboy & K. Tsianina Lomawaima
Revolution in Higher Education: Identity & Cultural Beliefs Inspire Tribal Colleges & Universities
Cheryl Crazy Bull & Justin Guillory
The New World of the Indigenous Museum
Philip J. Deloria
The Story of Indian Health is Complicated by History, Shortages & Bouts of Excellence
Mark N. Trahant
Indigenous Leadership
Gary Sandefur & Philip J. Deloria
Critical Investigations of Resilience: A Brief Introduction to Indigenous Environmental Studies & Sciences
Kyle Whyte
If Indigenous Peoples Stand with the Sciences, Will Scientists Stand with Us?
Megan Bang, Ananda Marin & Douglas Medin
Hear Our Languages, Hear Our Voices: Storywork as Theory & Praxis in Indigenous-Language Reclamation
Teresa L. McCarty, Sheilah E. Nicholas, Kari A. B. Chew, Natalie G. Diaz, Wesley Y. Leonard & Louellyn White

List Price: $8.00

Product Description: It's a preposterous title: "The Last Great Battle of the Indian Wars." How can that be? Well, there were two great battles in our era: The defeat of termination and the campaign for self-determination. First, a terrible, disastrous policy had to be rejected - and then it had to be replaced by a new progressive policy course for American Indians and Alaska Natives. This is the context for this story about Henry "Scoop" Jackson and Forrest Gerard. Team Jackson and Gerard so changed the landscape of Indian Affairs that virtually every member of the body politic today agrees with the premise that American Indians and Alaska Natives have the right to govern themselves. This last great battle redefined the nature of Indian wars in America. Scoop's legacy is already well known and etched in the nation's memory. He was a champion of America's international reputation and the legislative architect of many environmental policies. Gerard was the first American Indian to design, write, shepherd and do whatever was required to move American Indian legislation through Congress. The Indian Financing Act, the Indian Self-Determination Act, the Indian Health Care Improvement Act, are all in the string of Jackson-Gerard legislative hits that remains unmatched in modern times.

English Afrikaans Arabic Chinese (Simplified) Chinese (Traditional) Dutch Filipino French German Hindi Indonesian Italian Japanese Korean Malay Persian Portuguese Russian Spanish Swahili Swedish Thai Turkish Urdu Vietnamese


Jay Inslee Tells Hayes That He Wants To Gut The Filibuster To Fight Climate Change
Washington Governor Jay Inslee is running for president on the single issue of climate change and argues that doing…
Causes and Effects of Climate Change
by National Geographic
What causes climate change (also known as global warming)? And what are the effects of climate change? Learn the human…
Extreme Weather and Global Warming
by NASA Goddard
Is the frequency of extreme weather events a sign that global warming is gaining pace and exceeding predictions? Bill…
Thanks to Climate Change, Wet Winters No Match for Drier California Summers
by KPIX CBS SF Bay Area
If the emerald-green hills around Northern California have you thinking recent rains have put a damper on the fire…
Climate Change Is Not One Issue
"Climate change is not one issue," said David Wallace-Wells, author of "The Uninhabitable Earth," but is…
The Heat: Climate change
by CGTN America
Images gathered by NASA show an increase in foliage in China and India. The greening effect is mainly due to ambitious…
No company is doing enough to combat climate change: Jeremy Grantham
by CNBC Television
Jeremy Grantham, co-founder of GMO, on climate change and what needs to be done to combat it.
Power Plants Are POISONING Groundwater All Over America
by The Ring of Fire
According to a new report, 90% of coal-fired power plants across the country have completely contaminated the…


Default Image
Come on, UK weather forecasters – tell it like it is on climate change
by Adam Corner
They have a national reach that most climate campaigners would die for. They are familiar and respected experts on the…
Green New Deal: 6 places already reducing emissions from buildings
Green New Deal: 6 places already reducing emissions from buildings
by David Roberts
One of the elements of the Green New Deal resolution that has caused the most consternation among critics on the right…
Default Image
UK environmentalists target Barclays in fossil fuels campaign
by Matthew Taylor
A UK-wide campaign is being launched to persuade one of the country’s biggest high street banks to stop investing…
Oceanic carbon uptake could falter
Oceanic carbon uptake could falter
by Tim Radford
What does oceanic carbon uptake achieve? Greenhouse gas that sinks below the waves slows global warming a little and…
Britain (Yes, Rainy Britain) Could Run Short of Water by 2050, Official Says
Britain (Yes, Rainy Britain) Could Run Short of Water by 2050, Official Says
by Global Warming & Climate Change
“Climate change plus growth equals an existential threat,” Mr. Bevan said. To avoid severe water shortages, he added,…
Default Image
Record high US temperatures outpace record lows two to one, study finds
by Associated Press
Over the past 20 years, Americans have been twice as likely to sweat through record-breaking heat rather than shiver…
Climate change: Water shortages in England 'within 25 years'
Climate change: Water shortages in England 'within 25 years'
by BBC News - Science & Environment
Image copyright PA Image caption Low water levels at Wayoh Reservoir near Bolton in the UK heatwave in July 2018 Within…
Default Image
Why you'll never meet a white supremacist who cares about climate change
by Rebecca Solnit
As the news of the Christchurch mosque massacre broke and I scoured the news, I came across a map showing that the…