“We got a little bit lucky,” said President Donald Trump about the storm which killed at least six people in Louisiana, ripped apart buildings, left more than half a million homes without power, and triggered a chemical fire from an industrial plant over Lake Charles.
Of course, Trump was glad he didn’t have to postpone his speech at the Republican National Convention.
But while Hurricane Laura did not, thankfully, produce the catastrophic storm surge some predicted—weakening into a tropical storm—it represents an unmistakably escalating trend of extreme weather events due to increasing global temperatures.
Hurricane Laura had followed hot on the heels of Hurricane Marco. The Atlantic hurricane season has already broken records with 13 named storms, which meteorologists consider well above-normal activity.
Recently published scientific studies suggest that the devastation wrought by Laura, and the potential catastrophe only narrowly avoided, are likely to become a ‘new normal’ if we continue to pump carbon emissions into the atmosphere.
Billion dollar disasters
Earlier in August, the US-based Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) published a major report on exactly this issue, titled Climate Change-Fueled Weather Disasters: Costs to State and Local Economies.
The report brought together data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Billion-Dollar Weather and Climate Disasters database with other studies, to build a stark picture of what we now know about extreme weather risks.
The report points out that since 1980, the number of extreme weather events per year in the United States has increased fourfold, with annual direct cost of these disasters increasing fivefold.
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