Costs Of Climate Change Continue To Rise As Storms Become More Destructive
Joe Parkinson lives right on the Gulf coast in Orange Beach Alabama. I he and most of the people around him thought they'd be okay to stay at home during a big storm this week. But then it was absolutely terrifying stores. Nine of our lives we were caught completely flat footed storm turned into a hurricane. Hurricane. Sally. And Joe's house got hit. Pard three-foot ways hitting the house on the north side while one, hundred, twenty, five, mile an hour winds shook the whole house from side. It was just brutal on my wife and I just sat there just waiting on the roof the pill off they made it through the night job talked to us after the hurricane passed by then his wife and daughter were out looking at all the damage the top floor where they spend most of their time is fine the houses on stilts. But. The bottom floor is covered in mud. The boat dock is destroyed and outside I'm looking at pine trees with no leaves and the Bark ripped off of them. There's a car I've never sat in the car. I have no idea where it came from this isn't the first time Joe Parkinson has waited out a storm which yeah. Isn't always the best thing to do. But this time he says was different. This time he felt like he might actually die you just praying. Please let us. Coming up hurricanes and wildfires are getting more destructive and with the world that's getting hotter. The costs of these disasters are going up. But trying to change that could cost a lot to. Says considered this from NPR Kelly mcevers it is Friday September eighteenth. This message comes from NPR sponsor unfinished Short Creek the latest investigative true crime podcast from witness docs and critical frequency a battle over family home and the limits of religious freedom find it in stitcher apple podcasts or wherever it is. You listen. This message comes from NPR sponsor Twi- Leo a customer engagement platform trusted by millions of developers enabling you to reinvent had connect with your customers whatever your use case Twi- Leo has your back. It's time to build visit Twi- Leo Dot Com. Comedian. Larry Wilmore has had quite the career, but maybe his most infamous moment came from a single joke he made to President Obama back in two thousand sixteen. There was a rallying cry from people who said, yes there. Thank you that was the blackest thing I've ever seen in my loving. Listen to the IT's been a minute podcast from NPR. This is considered this from NPR I. There was Hurricane Laura, then hurricane, sally and more storms are coming. Turns out there have been so many tropical storms this year that the National Hurricane Center has already made it through the alphabet to name the storms. Last name started with a W.. So now using the Greek alphabet. In the last five years this country has lost five hundred billion dollars because of climate driven weather disasters, storms, and fires. That's just an estimate by the federal government doesn't even include twenty twenty. Colleague Sasha pfeiffer to NPR's Rebecca Hersher Nathan Rot about the cost of these disasters and the bigger cost of climate change. Nate you're outside Eugene Oregon near one of the major fires is burning. Give us some sense of what those fires mean for the local economy there. Well, they've just been devastating. You have businesses here in Eugene up and down the state that it had to close just because of the smoke and a lot of these businesses were already just hanging on by a thread because of the pandemic. Then, you've got the direct damages from the fires lost homes less timber buildings lost infrastructure. I talked to a telecom worker the other day at the incident command post for the firearm near, and he had just gotten back from being in the burnt area. His name is Rob Robertson. He described the scene where just looked like a ghost forest he said they lost something like sixty miles worth of telephone poles that had been built and he says each of those poll costs about ten thousand dollars we're looking at you know multi millions, worth of infrastructure to replace and Robinson was frustrated because he said, he felt like there were things that we could do right now to decrease risked infrastructure, but we haven't because it costs money. On that point when it comes to wildfires, for example, what can be done to decrease their long-term costs so it's going to take a big change in the status quo. Here's Sara ultimate poke a former smoke jumper who now runs a force collaborative in southern Oregon we do have a lot of work that we need to do on our forest to get them back to a more. Healthy state where they're going to be resilient in the face of climate change resilient to disturbance and to do that, we're going to have to invest in them. So she says, we're going to be more prescribed fire more thinning more management of these places, and that is going to cost a lot of money. You know billions of dollars. So that's wildfires. Then there's hurricanes and Rebecca gives us a sense about the hurricane cost. Well, you know hurricanes are consistently the most expensive disastrous that we see. Especially, hurricanes 'cause a lot of flooding like sally and that's really bad news because that's exactly the kind of storm that's more common as the earth gets hotter. This year has been really bad. There have already been ten climate driven disasters that cost more than a billion dollars. Each that was July and one thing to remember is that where people live really matters, you know the number of homes in flood prone areas, it's skyrocketed lost three decades. So this seem disaster today is going to cause more damage hurt more homes than if it had happened previously. Rebecca innate. We've been talking about the overall economic costs of climate fueled disasters, but let's go to a more personal level. How does this affect families and what do we know about how surviving a fire or flood affects people financially The effects are really dramatic for a lot of people especially poor people. If you don't have savings to fall back on or gave can't afford adequate insurance, a disaster can totally derail a family finances for decades people whose home is their only source of wealth. For example, they're more likely to end up renting even years later bankruptcy is more likely. There are other costs to like for example, research suggests that young people. Who Survivor hurricane they're less likely to enter college it takes longer to graduate if they do go and survivors also have long term mental and physical health problems often, and that can interfere with work obviously hits your income or create new costs of their own. These are extreme weather disasters we've been focusing on, but what about the financial hit from less dramatic or less immediately noticeable climate impacts like the gradual rise of temperatures. Rising temperatures and heat waves hurt agriculture health. You know certainly electrical bills you have warmer waters affecting fisheries, and you know then there's just the down the road impacts ecological decline. You know we are in an extinction crisis right now that climate change is only going to make worse and we depend on ecosystems for everything from clean water and air to places to go where we can just escape from it all and I don't really know how you put a price tag on something like that. NPR's Nathan Rock and Rebecca Hersher talking to my colleague Sasha Pfeiffer. So. Yeah. The cost of doing nothing to stop clamming change is huge. But the alternatives are also complicated. One example of that is Japan. Two Thousand, Eleven Japan got a third of its energy from nuclear power. One of the energy sources with the smallest carbon footprint. Then everything changed. Magnitude nine point one earthquake than a devastating tsunami. The waves at the Daiichi nuclear power plant in Fukushima. Explosions sent radioactive material into the air. Even, now, some of the towns around the plant are uninhabitable. Kazu Ocala used to be a maintenance worker at the Daiichi plant. In. His old hometown, a lot of the land is now blocked off as a storage site for contaminated radioactive. Topsoil. Still who wants to live next to this this? This nuclear waste he says, he used to think nuclear power was safe but now. I'm afraid of nuclear power. In one moment devastated our home this hunt is. Chuck Boston thumbed he says he's one hundred percent against it. A lot of people in Japan have turned against nuclear power. After, the Fukushima disaster, the government shutdown, all fifty, four of its nuclear reactors. And there was a push to use more solar and wind power. At first, the government required utility companies to give money to renewable energy producers something called feed in tariffs. But those tariffs have recently been cut. and. Japan is relying more and more on imported coal and natural gas, and that has meant a big increase in greenhouse gas emissions. So many say it's time to start thinking about nuclear power again and to choose which you choose you may have to choose nuclear our eventually Tatsu Suzuki is a former nuclear engineer and now Professor Nagasaki University. He says nuclear power is like a strong medicine. Began work, but it can also have bedside effects though may have to take medicine own nuclear, but we have two very, very careful. And you have other choices I would recommend nuclear policy is the last place where a choice has been made is Fukushima the region where the disaster happened in two thousand eleven. It plans to be completely powered by renewables by twenty forty NPR's cat lawns, Dorf went to see it. It's a real turnaround for a place where nuclear power ruled only a decade ago especially in the former exclusion zone near Daiichi, there are solar panels everywhere from small ones on roofs and hillsides to massive mega-farms along highways making use of the land available after the disaster some of these panels are run by big developers and others are not. Blake the solar panels on farmer Yuki Corneau's field. He's seventy four years old and this land has been in his family for generations he gestures around. This is all my land, but it's nonsense. Nonsense because it's relatively useless. The wind carried radioactive material here after the disaster and the government scraped off the top soil in decontamination efforts the farmers here can't really farm much anymore. So when a small local power company came and asked Shaggy Yuki if they could rent his land for solar panels, he said, yes. I was really worried after nuclear accident. How would we get power most of his neighbors agreed but that means everything is different. Now he says there were Rice patties all around here with tiny frogs that created a kind of soundtrack for his life. Now it's quiet. He misses the frogs lot and he says. and. He doesn't make nearly the same amount of money as he did farming but she says, he sees this as unnecessary change. He has nine grandkids they all live far away now but they were just in town the other weekend for a visit running through the fields. So, Suze, my grandparents farmed here. My parents do. But now it's time. For Change, I've realized it's a new season pitcher. This, he says looking out over the solar panels is for future generations. Lawns, she reported that story for NPR's above the fray fellowship and you can find more of reporting with wonderful photographs to accompany it in our show notes. This is considered this from NPR I'm Kelly mcevers. Consider, this is a partnership between NPR and Wmu to help you understand the news that is happening around the world, and here in the Washington region please keep listening and downloading will be here every Wednesday afternoon with news about the Washington region as well as your national. News.