Weather disasters of 2021 show rising costs of inaction

It is time for Congress to adopt a fiscally and morally responsible course of action and pass the Build Back Better Act.

Severe damage from the tornado that swept through Mayfield, Ky. On December 10, 2021

As we close another year of record-breaking climate and weather disasters – topped by a terrifying rapid fire storm in Colorado and the deadliest December tornadoes on record, and summarized in a new report released today by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) – The case for Congress to urgently pass the essential climate change solutions included in the Build Back Better Act has never struck closer to home for more people to l nationwide.

The stakes are huge. Failure to act on the scale required will mean a future of ever-increasing health and environmental costs to individuals, communities and taxpayers. More lives and communities will be devastated by forest fires, extreme weather events and the deterioration of the ecosystems on which we depend for our food, jobs and recreation.

Yet opponents of the bill, namely the fossil fuel companies and their allies in Congress, have spent the past year trying to kill this effort by trying to scare the public with its price tag. In doing so, they mislead the public by masking how much inaction is already costing us all – in terms of money, but also for our health and our lives – and how the costs eclipse the price of the bill. and will continue to do so even more, the longer we will wait to act.

Opponents are also diverting the conversation from the direct benefits this law will bring to people across the country in terms of jobs created and reduced costs.

And they don’t talk about who will pay for it (the billionaire corporations and the ultra-rich) and who not (all the others).

As Congress seeks to revert to the Build Back Better Act in the coming weeks, it must heed the the enormous cost of inaction, as shown NOAA’s most recent report and experienced in communities across the country, and to contrast it with the benefits that investments from this legislation will bring people all over the world in terms of jobs, economy, health, safety and quality of life in the future.

If Congress does this, the choice is clear. We can’t afford to not invest in solutions to this generalized and growing crisis.

Here is just a rundown of what not passing this bill will cost the people of this country:

A new report released today by NOAA found that 2021 was the fourth hottest year in the United States, and the nation saw 20 distinct climate and weather disasters, each exceeding $ 1 billion in damage to property, land and infrastructure. These disasters claimed the lives of 688 people, the highest number of disaster-related deaths since 2011 and more than double the number of deaths of 262 in 2020. The events of 2021 ranked second among those recorded in the last decade. ‘a calendar year, and just behind the record of 22 separate billion dollar events. in 2020.

the the total cost of damage caused by these 20 climate and weather events in 2021 was $ 145 billion, far ahead of $ 102 billion in 2020, according to NOAA.

But that’s just a drop in the bucket for what could happen: According to the Congress-mandated National Climate Assessment, unless action is taken, climate change will cost our economy as much as it does. 500 billion dollars per year by the end of the century.

And none of this even takes into account the health impacts of climate change and the burning of fossil fuels, which are already costing us more than 820 billion dollars per yearin premature death, heart disease, respiratory conditions like asthma, hospitalizations and lost work days due to illness, according to a 2021 report from NRDC and its partners.

These are not just abstract numbers. These climatic and meteorological disasters are affecting more and more people directly in this country, no matter where they live. Last year, 4 in 10 people in the United Statesor 40 percent of the population – lived in a county hit by a climate disaster.

People evacuate amid thick smoke from the Marshall Fire in Boulder County, Colo. On December 30, 2021

Taken via Flickr, CC BY 4.0

Last December alone, more than 100 million people in the United States were subjected to weather warnings, including tornadoes, forest fires and wind gusts of up to 100 miles per hour (mph). This includes the gale-fueled firestorm outside Denver just before New Years Eve that burned nearly 1,100 homes, injured at least seven and displaced tens of thousands of people, as a result of ‘an extremely dry fall and in the middle of an almost snowless winter.

And that includes dozens of tornadoes that swept through the Midwest last December – more than any December on record, including the longest path of any tornado in American history – that killed 90 people. .

The 20 climate and weather disasters in 2021 included:

  • 1 winter storm / cold snap (in many states including Kentucky, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and Texas)
  • 1 forest fire (forest fires in the west through Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Oregonand Washington )
  • 1 episode of drought and heat wave (through Western United States including California, Oregon,and Washington )
  • 2 floods (in Californiaand Louisiana )
  • 3 tornado outbreaks (including December tornado outbreaks across Arkansas, Kentucky, Missouri, and Tennessee)
  • 4 tropical cyclones (Elsa, Fred, Ida and Nicholas which hit the isand South) .
  • 8 severe weather events (in many parts of the country, including the December Midwestern derecho Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Nebraska, and Wisconsin)

Since 1980, the United States has been affected by 358 weather and climate disasters, each of which caused more than $ 1 billion in damage.The total price : more … than $ 2.086 billion .

The growing threat to the economy prompted Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell to pledge last October to add climate financial risk analysis to the Fed’s work. “Climate change poses significant challenges to the global economyand the financial system, ”he said. “The public rightly expects us to work to ensure that the financial system is resilient to climate-related financial risks. “

Meanwhile, global temperatures continue to rise, further fueling dangerous climate impacts. 2021 on track to be among the hottest seven years in world history , all since 2014, according to an estimate by the United Nations World Meteorological Organization.

And here is what the investments included in this bill will do for the people of this country:

If enacted, the Build Back Better Act will help tackle pollution from power plants and transportation, which together are responsible for two-thirds of climate emissions in the United States that contribute to these weather and climate disasters. extremes, while creating jobs. , reducing energy bills and promoting equitable access to these benefits.

As currently drafted, the bill includes $ 550 billion over 10 years to accelerate the transition from fossil fuels to cleaner, smarter ways to power our future.

Turbines on Biglow Canyon Wind Farm in Sherman County, Oregon

To put it in perspective, it’s $ 270 billion less that the only health care costs in the United States due to climate change and pollution from fossil fuels. Meanwhile, taxpayers are on the way to shell out $ 200 billion over the next decade in state and federal subsidies for oil, gas and coal.

Instead of investing in industries that threaten our health and cost us money, we should invest in industries that will save us money, improve our health, and put people to work for build a better future.

More specifically, these investments would allow:

  • Help to add millions of quality jobsin clean energy, an industry that already employs more than three million people in the United States, or nearly three times more than in fossil fuels– with jobs paying on average 25% more than the median salary, as data from the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics shows.
  • Driving Energy Efficiency Investments That Will Help U.S. Households Save$ 500 per year in energy costson average, including help with altering homes and bringing energy-efficient appliances to low-income and middle-class families.
  • To createrooftop solar tax credits that will cut costs by 30 percent– as well as other incentives to accelerate the transition to wind and solar energy.
  • Make something new and occasionallymore affordable electric cars and light trucksfor middle-class and low-income families, as well as businesses. It will also help accelerate the US auto industry towards 100% pollution-free car sales by 2035.

Regarding electric vehicles (EV):

  • Buyers with an annual household income of less than $ 75,000 would be eligible for a$ 7,500 tax credit– even more for vehicles built in this country by unionized workers – that they could apply directly to the price of a new car, and up to$ 4000for any used electric car, van or pickup truck costing $ 25,000 or less.
  • The bill is also improvingtax credit for businesseswho buy electric vehicles for commercial purposes.
  • The bill provides for investments to helpU.S. Postal Service and other federal agenciesswitch to EV.
  • And there are incentives formake sure all of these benefits go to those who need help most, including low-income communities on the front lines of climate risk and damage, and regions that have lost power plants, mines or other fossil fuel facilities.

Here’s who will pay for it – and who won’t:

  • Funding for investments in the Build Back Better Act will come from the fact that big business and the ultra-rich pay their fair share.
  • This means that no one earning less than $ 400,000 a year, nor 97% of small businesses, will pay a dime more in taxes.

When you weigh the risks of climate action versus inaction, there is only one fiscally and morally responsible course of action: It’s time Congress passed the Build Back Better Act, to protect people across the country against the rising costs and dangers of a crisis we can no longer ignore.

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