Interactive Disaster Map Illustrates Urgent Need for Climate Action

Climate Change is A Risk Multiplier, Making Disasters More Powerful & Frequent

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The National Wildlife Federation’s newly updated  interactive story map, Unnatural Disasters, illustrates where climate change-fueled hurricanes, algal outbreaks, wildfires, droughts, floods and extreme heat waves have hit in recent years across the United States — and demonstrates their impacts on local economies and wildlife. Extreme heat waves are a new addition to the map this year and are responsible for more human fatalities than any other type of natural disaster. 

“If there is one thing our ‘Unnatural Disasters’ map shows us it’s that no state or region is immune to the threats of climate-fueled natural disasters,” said Shannon Heyck-Williams, director of climate and energy policy at the National Wildlife Federation. “The 2018 hurricane season cost more than $50 billion in damages. To prevent a more costly and dangerous worsening of climate effects, Congress should swiftly advance serious pollution reduction and climate resilience policies. This year, Congress can expand tax credits for solar and offshore wind power, electric vehicles, energy efficiency, battery storage and carbon removal technologies, plus pass transportation legislation that invests in natural solutions to climate change. We must be innovative and act fast to forge solutions that match the magnitude of the problems we face.”

Recent reports by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change show we have little time left to reduce our emissions to a level sufficient to stave off the worst impacts of climate change. To save lives and protect the nearly 12,000 species currently at an increased risk of extinction in the United States, we must ramp up investments in zero-carbon technologies and nature-based solutions to help protect ecosystems and communities from the devastating effects of natural disasters. 

Among the disasters fueled by climate change highlighted in the Unnatural Disasters map:

  • Record flooding: In addition to devastating human communities, floods and storm damage can affect habitats that many fish and wildlife species depend on. In March of 2019, Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds said that the recent Missouri River Flooding caused approximately $1.6 billion worth of damage. This flooding has also caused major issues for deer fawns and ground-nesting birds like pheasant and quail in Iowa.
  • Monster wildfires: In the United States, 4.5 million homes are at a high or extreme risk of wildfire damage, and the total cost of 2018's wildfires was $24 billion, making it the most expensive year for wildfires to date. As of September, 684 fires have burned over 2.5 million acres in Alaska this year, costing more than $51 million. Alaska’s Swan Lake Fire is currently the most expensive wildfire in the United States, costing approximately $46 million.
  • Extreme heat waves: A threat all across the nation, heat is one of the deadliest weather disasters in the United States, killing an average of about 658 people each year. A recent study found that in less than 20 years, millions of people in the United States could be exposed to dangerous heat waves of 127°F or more. Alaska experienced its hottest month in recorded history this year in July. According to NOAA's National State of the Climate report, Alaska’s statewide average temperature was 7.9°F above average in 2019. This heat wave is suspected to have caused die-offs of several varieties of Alaskan salmon this year.

View the interactive disaster map here to learn more about how climate change could be impacting disasters in your state.

Read the National Wildlife Federation’s climate change policy recommendations for adaptation and mitigation here.

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