Climate Change Disasters Cost US $14 Billion In Past Decade
November 8, 2011

Climate Change Disasters Cost US $14 Billion In Past Decade

Researchers said on Monday that deaths and health problems from floods, drought and other U.S. disasters related to climate change cost $14 billion in the past decade.

The study looked at the cost of human suffering and loss of life due to six disasters from 2000 through 2009.

"When extreme weather hits, we hear about the property damage and insurance costs," Kim Knowlton, a senior scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council and a co-author of the study, said in a statement. "The healthcare costs never end up on the tab."

The researchers said 95 percent of the costs were attributable to the value of lost lives.

They said the events studied are the types of climate-related disasters that are expected to occur more often in the future as the Earth's climate warms.

The team looked at a study of U.S. ozone air pollution between 2000 and 2002 to gauge the costs of ozone pollution.  They also looked at the California heat wave of 2006, and Florida's 2004 hurricane season.

The team also took into account the West Nile outbreak in Louisiana from 2002 for their case in infectious disease.

The researchers from the Natural Resources Defense Council, UC Berkeley's Boalt Law School in Berkeley and UC San Francisco based costs of premature death on "value of a statistical life" approach.  This is a measure recommended for economic research by the Environmental Protection Agency.

They found that the events included in the research resulted in 1,689 premature deaths, 8,992 hospitalizations, 21,113 emergency department visits, and 734,398 outpatient visits.

They said that ozone pollution and the California heat wave were the most expensive, with health costs of $6.5 billion and $5.4 billion.

The authors of the paper published in the journal Health Affairs said the study did not include chronic health effects, lost leisure time, lost school days or other costs. 

"A better understanding of the range of economic impacts of climate change on health risks could help prioritize preparedness efforts to reduce vulnerability, costs and losses," they concluded in their paper.


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