Over the past 4 years alone, extreme weather events in the United States have resulted in $227 billion in economic losses and 1,286 lost lives. In its two latest High Risk Lists, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) cited extreme weather as one of the greatest threats to the federal government's balance sheet. The third anniversary of superstorm Sandy this Tuesday was a poignant reminder of the consequences of being unprepared when fierce weather strikes.
Preparing for natural disasters saves lives; it also saves taxpayer money—lots of it. For every $1 spent on preparedness and mitigation, $4 will be saved in the disaster's aftermath. The federal government appropriated $60 billion for recovery and repair efforts following Hurricane Sandy. Investing even a fraction of that sum in disaster preparedness before Sandy struck would likely have lowered the actual costs and allowed for better planning. Investments in energy efficiency and renewable energy, as well as durable infrastructure, provide insurance against the effects of catastrophes by making communities more resilient.
The Environmental and Energy Study Institute applauds U.S. Representatives Matt Cartwright (D-PA) and Leonard Lance (R-NJ) for their bipartisan PREPARE Act, which would improve the federal government's ability to prepare for disasters and assist states in their preparations. With support from both sides of the aisle, this bill is a win-win opportunity to make all communities more resilient and sustainable.
“To confront this issue nationwide,” said Rep. Cartwright, “my zero-cost bill requires the federal government to better coordinate their efforts and form comprehensive plans to address the threat posed by extreme weather events.”
Rep. Lance added, “Coordination and preparedness are critical in a natural disaster to protect life and property. This legislation will ensure government agencies are sharing information properly and outlining best practices so lessons learned responding to a disaster in one part of the country can be put to use responding to others across the Nation.”
A study by the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) shows the likelihood of extreme weather events has increased and will likely continue to do so for the foreseeable future. Events similar to the heat wave that swept Europe in 2003, causing 35,000 deaths, are already twice as likely to occur, according to the report.
For more information, see EESI's briefings Insurance Industry Perspectives on Extreme Weather Events, Evolving Resiliency: Managing Climate Risks in the Northeast, and The PREPARE Act for Extreme Weather: Saving Lives and Taxpayer Money.
Author: Michael Martina
- “GAO’s 2015 High Risk List,” United States Government Accountability Office
- “Parameters for an Independent Study To Assess the Future Benefits of Hazard Mitigation Activities,” Multihazard Mitigation Council, National Institute of Building Sciences
- “Managing the Risks of Extreme Events and Disasters to Advance Climate Change Adaptation,” Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
- “What the IPCC report says about extreme weather events,” Freya Roberts, Carbon Brief
- “Extreme Weather Events in Our Future Climate,” John Timmer, Ars Technica
- “European Heatwave Caused 35,000 Deaths,” Shaoni Bhattacharya, New Scientist
- “Extreme Weather on the Rise,” Miranda Peterson and Alexander Fields, Center for American Progress