Weathered Income

By Stephanie K. Jones | December 3, 2012

Do poor- and middle-income residents in the United States suffer more, economically, from extreme weather than affluent people?

According to a new report on the impact of extreme weather events that have occurred over the past few years they do.

The report by the Center for American Progress, “Heavy Weather: How Climate Destruction Harms Middle and Lower Income Americans,” found that “on average, counties with middle-and lower-income households were harmed by many of the most expensive extreme weather events in 2011 and 2012.”

In 2011, 14 weather events caused some $14 billion in damages, according the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The Center for American Progress estimated that through October 2012 “there were at least seven additional extreme weather events with more than $1 billion in damages each, with total damages from the two years combined topping $126 billion.”

The report suggests that the increase and intensity over the past few years of extreme weather events can be attributed to climate change.

Additionally, damage costs from this year’s drought are expected to end up between $28 billion and $77 billion, according to the “Heavy Weather” report.

The study noted that aside from hurricanes, the majority of extreme weather events of the last two years more often than not “harmed counties with household incomes below the U.S. median annual household income of $51,914.” For instance:

  • Counties with average annual household incomes of $44,547 – 14 percent less than the U.S. median income – suffered intense flood damage.
  • Counties with average annual household incomes of $49,340 – roughly 5 percent less than the U.S. median income – were affected by drought and heat waves.
  • Areas with average annual household incomes of $50,352 – 3 percent less than the U.S. median income – were devastated by wildfires, tornadoes and severe thunderstorms.

Data from National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the U.S. Census, news media and other sources were used to prepare the report.

Without pinpointing climate change as the cause of any one particular event, the report suggests that the increase over the past few years of catastrophes such as flooding, wildfires, tornadoes, severe thunderstorms and hurricanes can be attributed to the phenomenon.

Whether or not one agrees that climate change is behind these events, there is no denying that they are occurring with terrible effect. For that reason alone, it’s worth a read.

The report may be found online at:

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