More than 40% of people in the U.S. live in a county hit by climate-related extreme weather in 2021, a Washington Post analysis of federal disaster declarations found. Additionally, more than 80% of people living in the U.S. experienced a heatwave, which is not considered a disaster, but is the most deadly form of severe weather. The widespread, sometimes overlapping, and increasing disasters are a testament to the way climate change “has loaded the weather dice against us,” climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe told the Post. Wildfires, flooding and landslides, hurricanes, and other severe storms are all made worse or more frequent by climate change, primarily caused by the extraction and combustion of fossil fuels.
The analysis does not include the megadrought parching vast swaths of the West. In Louisville, Colorado, Mayor Ashley Stolzmann lost much of her town to the Marshall Fire last week. “When I lay awake the first night, not able to sleep from the fire, when I was evacuated from my house,” she told the Post, “the first thing I thought of is: I need everyone to reduce their carbon emissions.” (Washington Post $; Climate Signals background: 2021 Western wildfire season, Flooding, 2021 Atlantic Hurricane season, Western drought, Extreme heat and heatwaves)