The price of climate change

Photo courtesy Pixabay
Jessica Wade

UNO students and faculty braced themselves for the cold weather last week as the wind chill dropped to subzero temperatures, a common occurrence in Omaha this winter. The sight of bundled up students speed walking to class is not unusual for the winter, but the 14 degree average is. Below-average temperatures have been felt throughout the United States, but for much of the rest of the world, the opposite is true.

Despite what Omahans may be feeling, global temperatures are higher than usual. Data compiled from the NCEP Global Forecast System shows that worldwide temperatures are .9 degrees warmer than the average from 1979 to 2000. That change in climate has been felt around the world, especially in the United States as natural disaster after natural disaster damaged the country.

From three major hurricanes wreaking havoc on the South and Puerto Rico, to the vast wildfires in California and Montana and even the extreme cold that seems to have settled in Omaha, within the past year, the country has seen an array of extreme weather and natural disasters. An array that has caused an estimated $306 billion in damage, setting a record according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Sixteen natural disasters can be blamed for the bulk of the expenses. Hurricane Harvey, Maria and Irma were the most expensive, while the Western wildfires were the fourth most damaging disaster monetarily. The other 12 disasters ranged from floods, to hailstorms, to tornados and drought. Last year, the nation truly felt the destructive power of nature. The United States also felt the harsh reality that it’s difficult to ignore climate change when $306 billion is involved.

The world’s largest reinsurer, Munich Re, released this statement on the company’s website: “Extreme weather events are also due to climate change. And there is no end in sight: the records for global mean annual temperature are being broken again and again. It is clear that the situation is grave not only for scientists and politicians, but that massive challenges are ahead for industry as well.”

Not everyone is on board with the idea that global warming is a real and serious threat.

President Donald Trump tweeted on Dec. 28, “In the East, it could be the COLDEST New Year’s Eve on record. Perhaps we could use a little bit of that good old Global Warming that our Country, but not other countries, was going to pay TRILLIONS OF DOLLARS to protect against. Bundle up!”

The tweet is consistent with Trump’s decision to withdraw the United States from the Paris climate accord, but is not consistent with his decision to build to sea walls around a gold course he owns in Ireland. The New York Times found that listed on the early application papers for construction was the possible threat of climate change and global warming.

It is time for politicians and policy makers to consider the impact climate change has on the United States, in terms of both financial loss and human tragedy.