Even as climate change increases the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events, from fires to floods and hurricanes, two-thirds of Americans say if their homes are affected they would rather rebuild than move, a new NPR /PBS NewsHour/ Results of a Marist survey.
Republicans were the most likely to say they would pull back and rebuild (81%). But more than 6 in 10 Democrats and two-thirds of independents have said so too.
Forty percent of Generation Z and Millennial survey respondents said they would be more likely to move – by far the highest percentage among generations.
The survey of 1,220 adults, which was conducted from September 20 to 26, found that about 3 in 10 Americans say they have been personally affected by an extreme weather event in the past two years. He also asked if these recent events have generally changed people’s perceptions of where they live. For the most part, they did not. Less than one in ten said such events caused them to leave their current place of residence. But the people most likely to want to move were low-income people (12%) and blacks (16%) or non-whites (14%).
In Thibodaux, Louisiana, Pamela Wiggins, 44, repairs minor damage to her home after Hurricane Ida ravaged her town with Category 4 winds. She is unemployed and says the cost of living on the hurricane path has become prohibitive.
“Every time they see there’s a storm in the Gulf [of Mexico], we automatically fall under the evacuation, ”she explains. Wiggins estimates that Hurricane Ida cost her $ 6,000 in savings – from hotel rooms to rental homes, to the $ 50 of gasoline she needed every day to run a generator for three weeks before the current does not come back.
She has lived her entire life in Louisiana. But once her house is repaired, Wiggins says she is determined to sell it and leave the Gulf Coast.
“It plays on you mentally, when you have to go through it. And it’s not the storm itself, it’s the consequences of the storm that are killing you, ”she says.
Billion dollar disasters
The growing cost of climate-related disasters has been seen in communities across the country, from post-Katrina New Orleans to New Jersey after Super Storm Sandy. It all ran into billions of dollars – and the price just keeps going up.
In 2020, for example, extreme weather events caused $ 95 billion in damage, “the fourth highest inflation-adjusted annual cost since 1980,” according to a report by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. NOAA has found that the total cost of $ 1 billion disasters in the United States over the past five years is over $ 600 billion.
And these climate-related disasters have become more frequent. The Congressional Search Service has found 10 or more such events every year since 2015 with a “record tying 16 such events in the first nine months of 2020”.
The cost to U.S. taxpayers and insurance companies has also skyrocketed in recent decades as Congress attempts to determine how to respond. Starting this month, many flood-prone homeowners will see higher rates thanks to the debt-ridden National Flood Insurance Program. The Federal Emergency Management Agency has also been criticized for racial inequalities in disaster relief, many of those who need help the most cannot get it.
Westerners are more likely to want to relocate
The new survey broke down responses regionally, and people living in the West were the most likely (14%) to say they wanted to move because of recent weather events. The region has faced years of devastating drought, increasingly destructive forest fires and widespread exposure to toxic smoke.
“We have smoke today, right now, from all of these fires,” Lorie Luiza says from her home in the foothills above Sacramento, California. “You can’t breathe, your throat and your head hurt, so it’s hard, you have to close all the windows and stuff.
Luiza tells NPR that she wants to move – at least during the summers – and that she is looking for property in Washington state. But as a Republican, Luiza fears the state’s liberal government may be more effective than California’s at reducing the threat of wildfires, which she says can only be resolved with logging. increased federal forests.
“The political arena that is fueling these fires is really worrying,” she said.
There is debate over the most important factor in the increase in mega-fires – climate change or the need for more aggressive forest management. Fire scientists say both are to blame.
The two major political parties see solutions to climate change very differently. Democrats are much more likely to make the issue a priority, and believe that investments in infrastructure and increased regulations on polluters are needed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions quickly enough to avoid the most catastrophic impacts. Republicans who recognize the problem, on the other hand, worry about potential energy costs for consumers and expenses for businesses.
Former President Barack Obama signed the Paris climate agreement in an attempt to curb global warming through the efforts of countries around the world. Former President Donald Trump then tore up the deal early in his term. President Biden has joined Paris, but his much more ambitious climate measures are blocked in Congress. They are key to the United States’ credibility at a United Nations climate summit in Glasgow next month, where the United States hopes to persuade other countries to take more aggressive climate action.
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