Recent Extreme Weather Impacted 80 Percent of Americans

Source: 
USA Today
Doyle Rice

Violent and deadly weather events have affected more than 240 million Americans – about 80 percent of the nation's population – over the past six years, says a report out today from an environmental advocacy group. 

Last year was particularly awful for weather in the USA, with at least 14 weather and climate disasters across the nation that each inflicted more than $1 billion in damage. They included a series of devastating tornado outbreaks in the central and southern USA, the ongoing drought in the southern Plains, massive river flooding along the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers, and batterings from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee.

Environment America's report looks broadly at county-level weather-related disaster declarations from FEMA for 2006 through 2011 to find out how many Americans live in counties hit by recent weather disasters. The report focused on weather and climate events, and did not include geological events such as earthquakes or volcanic eruptions.

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"Global warming increases the likelihood" of more extreme weather, said Nathan Willcox, Environment America's federal global warming program director.

The United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) last November also reported that disasters such as heat waves, floods and other weather events will likely worsen with global warming.

"Given that global warming will likely fuel even more extreme weather, we need to cut dangerous carbon pollution now," says Willcox. The burning of fossil fuels such as oil, gas and coal -- and the resulting release of excess amounts of carbon dioxide -- is what's most scientists say is causing global warming.

Reducing the output of these "greenhouse" gases is the goal of most environmental groups.

Masters said the report does an "excellent job" highlighting the impacts of climate change on extreme weather.