Climate-Related Natural Disasters Cost US $14 Billion in Health Care Over Past Decade

Rennett Stowe/CC BY 2.0

In the past decade, climate change-related natural disasters and "disease events" have caused in excess of $14 billion in additional health care cost in the United States.

Research co-authored by scientists from NRDC, appearing in Health Affairs, highlights six categories of climate-related disasters in the US that are likely to be made worse by climate change: Hurricanes, flooding, heat waves, wildfires, ozone air pollution, and West Nile virus outbreaks.

All told, the report says that the events that they looked at resulted in a total of 760,000 encounters with the health care system. The majority of these were outpatient or emergency room visits, though there were just under 9,000 hospitalizations and 1,689 premature deaths.

Breaking down the dollar figures for the specific disasters examined: High levels of ozone air pollution cost $6.5 billion from 2000-2002; Louisiana's outbreak of West Nile virus in 2002 cost $207 million; wildfires in Southern California in 2003 cost $578 million; Florida's 2004 hurricane season cost $1.4 billion; the 2006 heatwave in California totaled $5.3 billion; more recently, the 2009 flooding in North Dakota cost $20 million.

If that wasn't dramatic enough, according to stats from the National Climatic Data Center, weather disasters in the US this year alone have already added up to $35 billion in damages (not just health care...).

Tags: Global Climate Change | Global Warming Effects | Health Care | Natural Disasters | United States

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