Climate related disasters cost USA $14 billion

By RTCC Staff

Red River flood response in North Dakota, 2009

Red River floods, 2009 (Source: dvidshub/Flickr)

Floods, drought and other disasters associated with a changing climate cost the US more than $14 billion over the last decade, according to research published in the journal Health Affairs.

The study looked at six climate change related disasters between 2000 and 2009, events the authors stress are expected to worsen as the planet warms.

Ozone pollution, heat waves, hurricanes, infectious disease outbreaks, river flooding and wildfires resulted in an estimated 1,689 premature deaths, 8,992 hospitalisations, 21,113 emergency room visits and 734,398 outpatient visits according to the study.

The largest cost was $13.3 billion – based on premature deaths, while actual health care costs were an estimated $740 million.

The scientists and economists from the non-profit Natural Resources Defense Council, the University of California-Berkeley and the University of California-San Francisco said they chose events in the middle of the ‘severity spectrum’ and left out some of the most costly disasters such as Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

The highest costs directly related climate related disasters studied were from ozone air pollution between 2000 and 2002 at $6.5 billion and the California heat wave in 2006 at $5.3 billion.

Other events looked at were the West Nile virus outbreak in Louisiana, 2002, costing $207 million, Southern California wildfires, 2003, at $578 million, the Florida hurricane season, 2004, costing $1.4 billion and the Red River flooding in North Dakota, 2009, at $20 million.

The authors say the study highlights the growing need for public health preparedness to climate change  and aims to provide a methodology for estimating future health costs.

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