According to the latest annual report by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), 2021 saw 20 separate billion-dollar climate disasters in the U.S., making this year the third-costliest extreme weather event year on record. From flash floods and bomb cyclones in California, to extreme heat, drought, and a record number of tornados – 2021 was a year for the record books. Not to mention that Colorado saw its most destructive wildfire ever, and Texas experienced temperatures so uncharacteristically cold that more than 200 people died.
All of these weather events have had a huge financial impact – the four tropical storms alone (Elsa, Fred, Ida, and Nicholas) cost more than $70 billion. But while focusing on the cost of these extreme weather events can help us put into perspective the immense damage caused by climate change, why are we so focused on dollars when our very existence is at stake?
Money will mean nothing if extreme drought prevents necessary crops from growing and causes millions to die of starvation and thirst! We can’t buy our way out of this climate crisis. Even if we wanted to, the best we’ve been able to get – at least in the United States – is a promise to cut greenhouse gas emissions by half by the end of the decade. And this is only because the Biden administration sees climate policies as a way to strengthen the capitalist economy, given research showing that investing in green infrastructure will likely mean a boost to corporate profits and national gross domestic prodcut (GDP).
But we can’t rely on politicians to save the planet, because they will only make changes they see as profitable. To truly save the planet, we need a new system – one that operates not in the interests of “the economy,” but in the interests of humanity and all other species on earth. We only have one planet. Its value: priceless.