Billion-Dollar Climate Disasters

We are only two-thirds through the calendar year, and 2023 has already broken the record for the number of billion-dollar weather disasters in the United States, with 23 such events to date. This year’s disasters whose costs exceeded $1 billion include a winter full of torrential rain and flooding in California, hundreds of tornadoes across the central U.S. throughout the spring, and the deadliest wildfire in the U.S. in over a century, totaling at least $57.6 billion in costs and damages from billion-dollar disasters so far this year. The ongoing hurricane season will almost certainly increase this count, with the costs to California of Tropical Storm Hilary still being calculated and Hurricane Lee rapidly approaching Maine at the time of writing.

The annual count of billion-dollar weather events has been steadily increasing since this analysis began in the 1980s, with recent records broken in 2011, in 2017, and again in 2020. Climatologists do not expect the latest record to hold for long.

This trend is due in large part to the effects of the worsening climate crisis: weather events are becoming more severe and more frequent every year as a direct result of the insistence of the ruling class to profit from fossil fuels and uphold the capitalist system. Not only are weather events becoming more severe, but the most vulnerable areas are experiencing the country’s most rapid growth of population and economic activity. Florida is the state most at-risk to damage from tropical storms and was 2022’s fastest growing state; and the other areas with the most population growth such as Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston, San Antonio, and Phoenix also rank among the country’s most at-risk of severe weather and climate events like floods, wildfires, droughts, and tornadoes. At the same time, these same regions are experiencing a rapid wave of corporate relocations.

Even by the capitalist class’s preferred metric, prioritizing monetary losses above all else, their system is designed irrationally and set up for failure. An unwavering drive for profit produces more frequent disasters and more destructive storms – destined to hit exactly where new centers of wealth, power, and population are being consolidated. The workers, whose labor powers run this system, have the ability to reverse this trend. We must take the future of the country and the world into our own hands, building a future that works for the majority of people instead of the financial gain of the most powerful.