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Extreme weather, fueled by climate change, cost the U.S. $165 billion in 2022

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

A report out this week shows the U.S. had 18 different weather disasters last year that cost a billion dollars or more. NPR's Nathan Rott has more.

NATHAN ROTT, BYLINE: One hundred sixty-five billion dollars - that's how much damage weather-related disasters did in the U.S. in 2022, not to mention the loss of life - at least 474 people, according to the new report from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Rick Spinrad is NOAA's administrator.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

RICK SPINRAD: Climate change is creating more and more intense extreme events that cause significant damage and often sets off cascading hazards, like intense drought, followed by devastating wildfires, followed by dangerous flooding and mudslides as we're seeing, for example, as a consequence of the atmospheric rivers in California right now.

ROTT: Climate change is a major driver of the recent uptick in so-called billion-dollar disasters, which often cost far more. Hurricane Ian, for example, which walloped South Florida and the Caribbean, caused nearly $113 billion in damage in the U.S. alone. But the other major issue contributing to that cost is how we build and where. People are still moving to flood-prone areas, to fire-prone areas, to the drought-stricken West. Rachel Cleetus is a policy director at the Union of Concerned Scientists.

RACHEL CLEETUS: At this point, we're still far too often reacting to these as one-off disasters. And the reality is climate change is worsening the trend here. And we have to do much better at getting out ahead and protecting and preparing communities in advance of disasters.

ROTT: Particularly, she says, low-income communities and communities of color, which are disproportionately impacted by natural disasters. European climate researchers confirmed that the last eight years had been the warmest in modern world history. And perhaps most concerning, the cause of climate change, greenhouse gases from human activities, are still rising. The nonpartisan research firm Rhodium Group put out a report showing that despite the Biden administration's pledges and the massive climate bill passed by Congress last year, U.S. emissions rose again in 2022, risking even worse climate change in the future.

Nathan Rott, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Nathan Rott is a correspondent on NPR's National Desk, where he focuses on environment issues and the American West.