Extreme weather, failure to adapt to climate impacts, and failure to combat climate change all top the World Economic Forum’s list of Global Risks. Yet, President Trump, who addressed the WEF meeting in Davos, Switzerland today, fails to recognize these risks and, in fact, has taken many actions that make the nation more vulnerable to them.
Extreme Weather Equals Extreme Costs
The WEF’s Global Risks Report 2018 ranked extreme weather, natural disasters, and our collective failure to mitigate and adapt to climate change as some of the greatest and most likely risks facing humanity in the next 10 years. And their warnings are not meritless. Climate change is already helping to fuel more extreme storms.
Such extreme weather events can be economically and socially devastating for many regions of the world. These events, such as catastrophic hurricanes, major floods, and prolonged high temperatures and droughts, are expected to occur more frequently and at greater magnitude in the coming decades. These events will further stress many countries beset by poverty and instability, and could potentially result in water crises and large-scale migrations of refugees, inflaming regional tensions. According to the report, “76% of the 31.1 million people displaced during 2016 were forced from their homes as a result of weather-related events.”
For the United States, extreme weather events cause billions of dollars in disaster-related damages. In the 2017, sixteen weather-related disasters, each exceeding $1 billion in damage, occurred in the United States. Hurricane Harvey, alone, has likely cost $125 billion in damages.
As this graphic demonstrates, the number of these events and their associated costs has steadily increased.
This trend will likely continue to increase as climate change continues to load the dice when it comes to extreme events.
“America First” in Exposure to Impacts of Climate Change
However, the Trump administration appears hell-bent on taking the United States in reverse. The administration has strived to cast doubt on the existence of climate change and its role in fueling these disasters. Many of the Trump administration’s actions, like revoking the federal flood protection standard, are inapposite to findings of the report, and have undermined the nation’s ability to mitigate and adapt.
The Trump administration has taken a hatchet to numerous laws, regulations, and policies that, if left in place, would have made America stronger and safer in the face of climate change impacts. Instead, Trump’s anti-environment agenda has left the U.S. exposed, threatening human health and safety, and the nation’s long-term economic prosperity. Here is a list of just some of Trump’s dangerous actions:
- Revoking the Federal Flood Protection Standard which required tax-payer funded infrastructure to be built with a higher margin of safety against flooding;
- Rescinding a policy that required federal agencies to develop plans and strategies to protect their program and investments from climate impacts, like major storms, floods, and sea level rise;
- Killing an order that required the military and other national security groups to prepare for the national security implications of climate change;
- Initiating the withdrawal of the United States from the Paris Agreement;
- Attacking the Clean Power Plan;
- Dropping the threat of climate change from the National Security Strategy;
- And the list goes on....
An Extreme Future for America
Climate change is not a matter of "if;" it is occurring and will continue to occur with worsening severity, unless action is taken to mitigate and adapt to its impacts. The Trump administration would be wise to heed the warnings of the report because its current actions set the United States up to fail. One only need to look to the past year to see the implications of a future of more extreme weather. And America is on a path to be vastly unprepared.