Wednesday, April 10, 2013

9 out of 10 Virginians live in areas hit by recent weather disasters

Senator John Edward (center) Red Cross CEO Lee Clark (left), Sarah Bucci (right)

Senator John Edward (center) Red Cross CEO Lee Clark (left), Sarah Bucci (right)

Nine months after the Derecho and other severe storms brought 80 mile-per-hours winds to Roanoke, a new Environment Virginia Research & Policy Center report finds that weather-related disasters are already affecting hundreds of millions of Americans, and documents how global warming could lead to certain extreme weather events becoming even more common or more severe in the future. 

From Hurricane Sandy, one of the events outlined in the report, to the severe storms that swept through Southwestern Virginia last summer the report found that more than 9 out of 10Virginins live in counties hit by at least one weather-related disaster since 2007.

“Millions of Virginians have endured extreme weather causing extremely big problems for Virginia’s health, safety, environment and economy,” said Sarah Bucci, Field Organizer with Environment Virginia Research & Policy Center. “Given that global warming will likely fuel even more extreme weather, we need to cut dangerous carbon pollution now.”

Environment Virginia Research & Policy Center was joined by Senator John Edwards (D-Roanoke) and Lee Clark, CEO of the American Red Cross, Virginia Mountain Region in releasing the new report.

During the Derecho, the American Red Cross opened 15 overnight and daytime cooling shelters, provided 1,582 overnight stays to shelter guests, served 33,751 meals and snacks, distributed 478 comfort kits and 16,988 bulk items including cases of water and blankets for shelter guests,” stated Lee Clark.  “This was done with the support of 394 trained volunteers, representing 97% of the staffing on this disaster relief effort.”

The new report, entitled “In the Path of the Storm,” examined county-level weather-related disaster declaration data from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for 2007 through 2012 to determine how many Virginians live in counties hit by recent weather disasters. The complete county-level data can be viewed through an interactive map available here. The report also details the latest science on the projected influence of global warming on heavy rain and snow; heat, drought and wildfires; and hurricanes and coastal storms. Finally, the report explores how the damage from even non-extreme weather events could increase due to other impacts of global warming like sea level rise.

Key findings from the Environment Virginia Research & Policy Center report include:

  • Since 2007, federally declared weather-related disasters affected 126 cities and counties in Virginia housing over 7.8 million people—or more than 9 out of 10 Virginians.
  • Recent weather-related disasters in the City of Roanoke and surrounding counties included severe storms and straight-line winds last summer and severe winter snowstorms in 2010.
  • In 2012 alone, federally declared weather-related disasters affected 82 Virginia counties housing nearly 3.5 million people. Nationally, 11 weather disasters inflicted economic damages of $1 billion or more.
  • Nationally, federally declared weather-related disasters have affected counties housing 243 million people since 2007—or nearly four out of five Americans.
  • Other research shows that the Virginia has experienced an increase in heavy precipitation events, with the rainiest 1 percent of all storms delivering 33 percent more rain on average at the end of the 20th century than at the beginning. The trend towards extreme precipitation is projected to continue in a warming world, even though higher temperatures and drier summers will likely also increase the risk of drought in between the rainy periods and for certain parts of the country.
  • Other research predicts that hurricanes are expected to become even more intense and bring greater amounts of rainfall in a warming world, even though the number of hurricanes may remain the same or decrease.  

“Extreme weather is happening, it is causing very serious problems, and global warming increases the likelihood that we’ll see even more extreme weather in the future,” said Senator Edwards. “Scientists tells us that carbon pollution from our power plants, cars and trucks is fueling global warming, and so tackling global warming demands that we cut emissions of carbon pollution.”

Bucci noted that every weather event is now a product of a climate system where global warming “loads the dice” for extreme weather, though in different ways for different types of extreme weather. While the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change recently concluded that it is “virtually certain” that hot days will become hotter and “likely” that extreme precipitation events will continue to increase worldwide, there is less scientific consensus about the impact of global warming on events such as tornadoes.

Environment Virginia Research & Policy Center called on decision-makers at the local, state and federal level to cut carbon pollution by expanding efforts to clean up the largest sources of pollution, shifting to clean, renewable energy, using less energy overall, and avoiding new dirty energy projects that make the carbon pollution problem even worse.

The report was released as the Environmental Protection Agency is developing carbon pollution limits for power plants—the largest single source of the carbon pollution that is fueling global warming.

“Between the millions of Americans who have spoken in support of strong action to address global warming, and the threat that extreme weather poses to our communities and future generations, we desperately need the president to follow his recent strong statements on global warming with equally strong action,” said Bucci. “We urge President Obama to finish implementing strong limits on carbon pollution for power plants.”

Posted By Valerie Garner

Categories: Education, Local Events

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