90 percent of U.S. counties have experienced a natural disaster since 2011


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Grace Smith | November 17, 2022

90 percent of counties in the U.S. have experienced a wildfire, a hurricane, a flood, or another form of natural disaster, from 2011 to the end of 2021, per a report released on Nov. 16. The report also said that over 700 counties in the U.S. have encountered over five natural disasters. Five states have suffered 20 natural disasters since 2011. 

From 2011-2021, California had 25 federal disasters, the highest number in the country, which included numerous wildfires, a large number of earthquakes, and more. 58 counties in the state have had recent disasters, and Butte County received the most post-disaster financial assistance — over $183 million. The lowest number of federal disasters occurred in Nevada with three. 

Iowa had 21 total disasters, the fourth-highest number of natural disasters in the nation. Every county in the state experienced a natural disaster from 2011-2021. Iowa has received $717 million in post-disaster assistance and is still receiving aid for a storm in 1977.

These natural disasters have caused states and counties large amounts of money. Louisiana had the highest per capita support at $1,736 for each person. In addition, the median payout for all states in the U.S. was $97 per capita. In total, $91 billion had to be put toward post-disaster aid and assistance for states from 2011-2021. The states who needed the most financial support included New York, Texas, and Florida.

Climate change is threatening ‘the things America values most’


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Grace Smith | November 11, 2022

The U.S. must slow down the use of greenhouse gas emissions to avoid the risk of the threatening of water supplies and and public health throughout the nation, per a federal government release on Monday.

“The things Americans value most are at risk,” the National Climate Assessment authors wrote in the draft, that contained 1,695 pages. “Many of the harmful impacts that people across the country are already experiencing will worsen as warming increases, and new risks will emerge.”

Over the past 50 years, America has warmed 68 percent faster than the rest of the world as a whole. Climate change disasters, such as wildfires, have caused communties around the nation to be displaced. If current conditions continue, the report says millions more Americans could be displaced from their homes. 

In addition, climate change has impacted infrastructure and the economy. On average, the U.S. has experienced eight $1 billion disasters each year for four decades, but has seen a large increase over the past five years with 18 catastrophes. 

The authors of the report offered fast solutions to taking America off the track of destruction it is on, such as increasing public transit, quickening low-carbon technologies, improving agricultural management, and incentivizing renewable energy options such as vehicles.

Climate change is a prominent force behind the global food crisis


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Grace Smith | October 21, 2022

Climate change and extreme weather are affecting the global food crisis significantly. Rising sea levels and extreme weather patterns like drought, wildfires, and floods make it extremely difficult for farmers to grow food to feed the hungry.

Samantha Power, administrator for the U.S. Agency for International Development, spoke on this topic during a Thursday night gathering at the Iowa Events Center.

“Climate change is leading to ever-more disastrous shocks, and with so many of the harshest impacts falling on poor farmers, how do we break the cycle of lurching from food crisis to food crisis?” asked Power. “How can we harness the industry, the know-how, and just stubborn determination of farmers around the world as well as the work of tremendous innovators … to feed the planet without accelerating climate change even further?” 

Power brought up the Horn of Africa, where 828 million people go to bed hungry each night because of a drought-driven famine occurring in Somalia killing people and animals. Power said despite the aid received by the U.S., Somalia needs more help. 

At the gathering, Power suggested an idea to help control the global food crisis. Power mentioned World Food Prize Founder Norman Borlaug, who embraced agricultural innovation through research, which started the Green Revolution and saved many citizens from hunger. 

“Despite these trade-offs, the primary lesson of the Green Revolution was clear,” Power said. “With investments in agricultural productivity and publicly funded research, “food supply can grow faster than demand.”

Wildfire smoke is destroying air quality progress


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Grace Smith | September 23, 2022

Smoke caused by wildfires has been growing worse and worse over the past decade, decreasing policy-driven improvements in Western U.S. air quality progress, according to a study published Thursday. 

The analysis said the number of people in locations experiencing an “extreme smoke day,” which is said to be unhealthy for all age groups, had a 27-fold increase over the past decade. Extreme smoke days affected 25 million people in 2020 alone.

The study also said increased wildfire smoke is being propelled by climate change, which increases the flammability of fuels, creates worse wildfires, and emits more smoke into the air. Exposure to grainy, particulate matter including smoke and its contaminants causes 48,000 deaths in the U.S. every year. 

“People may be less likely to notice days with a modest increase in fine particulate matter from smoke, but those days can still have an impact on people’s health,” a researcher from the study, Marissa Childs, told the New York Times. Childs said the most extreme smoke days were seldom during 2006-2010, but from 2016-2020, over 1.5 million people were frequently exposed to dangerous levels of smoke. 

A solution to stop the decrease in air quality progress would be to reduce the likelihood of wildfires growing and becoming more destructive, whether that be from prescribed fires or other fire management techniques.

Climate change could worsen issues with the supply chain


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Grace Smith | September 13, 2022

A record-setting drought across China in August led to many immensely disrupted economic activities by stopping supply chains for automobiles, electronics, and more. This drought-induced interruption in the supply chain likely won’t the be last supply chain issue caused by climate change.

The severe drought in China caused rivers to dry up, negatively affecting hydropower. The lack of water flow is impacting areas in China that rely heavily on water power, including Sichuan, which gets over 80 percent of its energy from hydropower. The drought also forced many companies to halt business operations and stop shipping. 

White House economics said climate change-caused natural disasters like droughts and wildfires becoming more frequent would likely disrupt delivery on a global scale and worsen supply shortages, as seen in examples of U.S. natural disasters in the past few years:

  • Droughts in the western portion of the U.S. has put additional stress on agricultural exports.
  • Wildfires in the western U.S. have harmed the planning and logistics of larger delivery companies like Amazon. 
  • Texas winter storms in February 2021 shut down semiconductor plants, causing a shortage of chips across the world.

“What we just went through with [COVID-19] is a window to what climate could do,” Kyle Meng, associate professor of environmental economics in California told the New York Times.

The National Centers for Environmental Information calculated the number of billion-dollar natural disasters in America has grown to an average of 20 in the past two years. These increased disasters and high temperatures could create competition for food and prompt new policies that stop the exports of food.

Alaska Experiences Extreme Wildfires


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Josie Taylor | July 25, 2022

In Alaska, wildfires are burning in ways that are rarely seen. Areas that are usually fireproof, or mostly fireproof, are burning.

More than 530 wildfires have burned an area the size of Connecticut, and the usual worst of the fire season is still later in the summer. While little property has burned, some residents have been forced to evacuate.

Recent rains have helped but longer-term forecasts are showing a pattern similar to 2004. In 2004, July rains gave way to high-pressure systems, hot days, low humidity and lightning strikes that fueled Alaska’s worst fire year.

The acreage burned by mid-July was about the same as now, but by the time that fire season ended, 10,156 square miles were burned.

Heat waves and droughts are making wildfires more frequent, destructive, and harder to fight in many places. This month, wildfires have torn through Portugal, Spain, France, England and Germany, which have seen record-high temperatures.

Europe Experiences Record Breaking Heat


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Josie Taylor | July 20, 2022

For the first time on record, Britain experienced temperatures above 40 degrees Celsius — 104 Fahrenheit — on Tuesday, as a heat wave moved northwest. This heat wave is leaving a trail of wildfires, lost lives and evacuated homes across Europe. The continent is extremely ill-equipped to deal with the extreme weather.

Britain is far from the only country suffering from the heat wave. France saw severe wildfires. 2,000 firefighters battled fires that have burned nearly 80 square miles of parched forest in the Gironde area of the country’s southwest.

Spain, Italy and Greece also endured major wildfires. In London, a series of grass fires erupted around the capital on Tuesday afternoon, burning several homes.

At least 34 places broke the old British record for heat on Tuesday, according to the Met Office, the national weather service, including at least six that reached 40 Celsius. Scotland broke its old record of 32.9, with temperatures of 34.8 in Charterhall. 

Network Rail, which operates the country’s rail system, issued a “do not travel” warning for trains that run through areas covered by a “red” warning issued by the Met Office. The red zone covered an area stretching from London north to Manchester and York. Several train companies canceled all services running north from the capital.

Forecasters across Europe are predicting the temperatures will cool down midweek. In Britain, some showers are expected, and temperatures are forecast to lower, staying below 80 Fahrenheit in most of the country on Wednesday.

The UN Warns of Increased Wildfires this Century


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Josie Taylor | February 24, 2022

A new landmark United Nations report has reported that the risk of wildfires around the world will likely surge by over 50% in coming decades as climate change further intensifies what the report described as a “global wildfire crisis.” 

The scientific assessment was made as a result of deadly wildfires around the world, like in Australia and even the Arctic. It is the first by the organization’s environmental authority to evaluate wildfire risks worldwide. 

The report, produced by more than 50 researchers from six continents, estimated that the risk worldwide of highly devastating fires could increase by up to 57% by the end of the century, primarily due to climate change. Some regions are expected to experience much more severe fires than others. It is a stark warning about the increased heat and dryness that human-caused global warming is bringing about. 

In a moderate scenario for global warming, the likelihood of extreme, catastrophic fires could increase by up to 33% by 2050 and up to 52 percent by 2100, the report estimates. If emissions are not curbed and the planet heats up more, wildfire risks could rise by up to 57% by the end of the century.

Health risks from smoke worsen with more wildfires in the Western U.S.


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Eleanor Hildebrandt | January 5, 2022

As wildfires worsen in the Western U.S., air pollutants are reaching concerning levels.

Ozone and smoke are the two air pollutants that are most common to result from wildfires and extreme heat. The increase in the pollutants across the country can affect people’s lungs and cardiovascular systems alongside aggravating chronic diseases according to The New York Times. Increased levels of ozone and smoke in a community’s air can also lead to premature death.

A new study monitored the levels of ozone and smoke in the Western U.S. from 2000 to 2020. It found millions of people were exposed to more days of combined dangerous levels of smoke and ozone pollution every year. Researchers involved with the project said the worsening wildfires and heat that result in these pollutants are linked to climate change.

Daniel Swain, one of the climate scientists who authored the study, said the damages of wildfires are both short and long term, even if the shorter term risks usually get the most attention.

“Something may not necessarily have a high likelihood of killing you personally in the short term,” he told the Times. “But if you impose that same risk on tens of millions of people over and over again, the societal burden is actually very high.”

Wildfire season sets record for days on high alert


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Eleanor Hildebrandt | October 5, 2021

In 2021, the United States Forest Service saw more days on the highest level of wildfire preparedness consecutively than ever before.

Forest Service Chief Randy Moore spoke to the United States House of Representatives subcommittee on Sept. 29 regarding the increasing intensity and of wildfires. Moore said the fires are getting harder to control, according to Iowa Capital Dispatch. Wildfires started in January across the western United States and they continue to burn into October. Millions of acres have burned as fewer firefighters fight the flames, according to Moore.

In June 2021, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources issued air quality alerts due to winds from the West Coast changing the air quality in some Midwestern states. Iowa saw poor air quality on various days throughout the summer because of the wildfires throughout the west. Wildfires are also worsening by scaling mountains and reaching higher elevations than in previous years. According to The New York Times, 50 percent of these fires in 2021 were started by lightning. The other half were traced back to a variety of human-made causes, including power lines and cars.

Moore said these wildfires are milder than in past years based on a couple of metrics, but with fewer firefighters they become tougher to fight. The 2021 season did, however, start earlier than normal.