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9 in 10 US counties have experienced a climate disaster, like a flood, fire, or windstorm, severe enough to receive federal assistance in the last decade, according to a recent report from the climate adaptation group Rebuild by Design.
However, this estimate is low, as the study does not include heat and drought, because they don’t cause property damage and in turn, don’t result in federal disaster declarations.
The “Atlas of Disaster” study analyzes a decade of federal disasters to see which parts of the nation have been most impacted by climate change and which are most vulnerable to future disasters. The report found that the federal relief system lacks the resources to truly invest in communities and help them recover after disasters.
“It shows unequivocally that climate change is here and that all taxpayers are paying for it,” Amy Chester, the managing director of Rebuild by Design, told Grist.
The system is also inefficient as it spends too much money on rebuilding areas that are likely to be decimated again, rather than helping communities build climate resilience.
“How much is enough? No one has been able to answer that question,” Chester. “But we know that throwing money [at] the last storm isn’t a good investment.”
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), have spent almost $100 billion on disaster recovery over the past decade. Other agencies, like the Department of Agriculture, have spent even more.
But despite the cost, the world continues to warm and churn more climate disasters. As a result, the costs will just increase. The report suggests that flood damages alone could cost the country another $72 billion over the next decade.
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