( Associated Press) — The United States wobbled through a steady onslaught of deadly billion-dollar weather and climate disasters in an extra-warm 2021, while the country’s greenhouse gas emissions increased last year due to an increase in coal and long-distance trucking increased by 6%, making the US further behind its 2030 climate change reduction target.
Three separate reports released on Monday, though not directly linked, paint a picture of the US battling global warming in 2021 and its efforts to stop it.
A report by the Rhodium Group, an independent research firm, said Monday that emissions of the heat-trapping gas in the US in 2021 resumed at a faster rate than the economy as a whole from the first year of the pandemic, reaching became difficult. The country’s pledge to cut emissions for the world in half compared to 2005 by 2030. And last year was the deadliest weather year for the United States since 2011, with 688 people killed in 20 separate billion-dollar weather and climate disasters that cost the least. $145 billion, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said Monday.
It was the second largest number of multi-billion-dollar weather disasters—adjusted for inflation and records going back to 1980—and the third most expensive.
“It was a tough year. Climate change has taken a shotgun approach to threats across the country,” said Adam Smith, a NOAA climatologist and economist who compiles weather disasters worth billions of dollars for NOAA.
Scientists have long said that human-caused climate change makes extreme weather worse and more frequent, documenting many links to wild and deadly weather events. They say warmer air and oceans and melting sea ice alter the jet stream that brings in and clogs storm fronts, making storms wetter and stronger, while making western droughts and wildfires worse.
Last year’s weather disasters included a record-shattering heat wave in the Pacific Northwest, where temperatures reached 116 degrees in Portland, a devastating and deadly cold blizzard in Texas, a widespread storm called a derecho, four Hurricanes that cause intense damage, deadly tornado outbreaks, mudslides and frequent droughts and lots of wildfires.
While 2020 set a record for most billion-dollar disasters, 2021 “seemed to be a little darker than extreme 2020,” Smith said.
Last year, billion-dollar weather disasters were more than twice as deadly as in 2020, when those extremes killed 262 people. The last fatal year was 2011. In 2017 Hurricane Maria killed nearly 3,000 people in Puerto Rico, which is not part of the United States.
Where people live and habitat were vulnerability factors, Smith said, “but the 800-pound gorilla in the room is, of course, climate change, because it’s accelerating all these trends with respect to disaster potential for damage.”
“We’re having these mixed cascading events one after the other,” Smith said. “A lot of trends are going in the wrong direction.”
86 separate billion-dollar weather disasters have cost $742 billion over the past five years, an average of more than 17 a year, a new record. This is about $100 billion more than the combined total of all billion-dollar disasters from 1980 to 2004, adjusted for inflation and far more than the three-billion-dollar disasters a year that the nation averaged in the 1980s. .
Dean Jonathan Overpeck said, “That’s exactly what I expect with climate change because climate change is essentially supercharging many types of extreme weather, causing heatwaves, droughts, wildfires, intense rainfall, floods and hurricanes. become severe, destructive and fatal.” of environmental studies at the University of Michigan, who was not part of the report.
According to another NOAA report, last year was also the fourth warmest year on record in the United States, with an average temperature of 54.5 degrees (12.5 Celsius). Several cities had their hottest years on record, including Akron, Ohio; Baltimore; Bismarck, North Dakota; Boston; Buffalo, New York; Erie, Pennsylvania; Milwaukee, Wisconsin; Montpelier, Vermont; Salt St. Mary’s, Michigan and Toledo, Ohio.
Last month was the warmest December on record for the United States, averaging 39.3 °C (4.1 °C), which is 6.7 °C (12 °C) higher than the 20th century average.
The national temperature record goes back 127 years and the 20th century average is 52 °C (11.1 °C).
Experts expected the 2020 pandemic to increase U.S. greenhouse emissions, but how big the jump got them worried.
“It was disappointing that emissions returned faster than the economy as a whole,” said Rhodium Group fellow Kate Larsen, co-author of the emissions report based on daily and weekly government data.
Larsen said coal use grew for the first time since 2014, up 17% from 2020, mostly due to rising natural gas prices.
“This is an example of how we’ve been riding on cheap natural gas to drive the decline of coal over the past 15 years,” Larsen said.
Larsen said the other key factor was transportation emissions, mostly from long-distance diesel trucking, rising 10%, as freight traffic returned to nearly pre-pandemic levels and is likely to increase.
Over the long run, US greenhouse gas emissions have been declining – even with the sudden jump from 2021 to 2020 decline. However, last year’s emissions add to the difficulty of reaching the target set by President Joe Biden as part of the Paris and Glasgow climate agreements, Larsen said. She said that for the 50% cut Biden pledged, the country needs to reduce emissions by 5% annually, not increase them.
“We are running out of time,” she said.
Cornell University climate scientist Natalie Mahowald, who was not part of the report, agreed.
“The radical changes in our economy that are needed to reach the lower climate goals have not been achieved,” Mahowald said. “Unfortunately, what we are seeing today is only the tip of the iceberg of what we will see unless emissions are reduced substantially and quickly.”
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