Burned cars and destroyed buildings in Maui

Burned cars and destroyed buildings are shown in the aftermath of a wildfire in Lahaina, western Maui, Hawaii on August 11, 2023.

(Photo: Paula Ramon/AFP)

Ticker Shows Climate Inaction Cost US Nearly $3,000 Per Second in 2023

"This exorbitant price tag, driven by an unparalleled number of weather and climate disasters, reinforces the urgent need for the Biden administration to use every tool at their disposal," said one campaigner.

After an unprecedented number of billion-dollar extreme weather disasters across the United States last year, advocacy groups on Friday released an updated "Cost of Inaction Ticker" estimating the price of not tackling the fossil fuel-driven climate emergency.

Launched by the Climate Action Campaign and other groups in 2022, the ticker is based on data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), which found that 2023 was the hottest year on record and the 28 disasters that caused at least $1 billion in damage collectively cost Americans at least $92.9 billion, or $2,945.84 per second.

To put that $2,945.84 into perspective, the coalition behind the ticker noted on its webpage that the per-second cost is comparable to about two months of rent, four months of childcare, or seven months of car or health insurance payments.

"Every day that goes by without climate action is estimated to cost at least $254 million, based on recent trends, and the average yearly cost of inaction for the last five years has averaged $120.6 billion or $3,824/second," the coalition warned.

There's also a human toll, the coalition acknowledged, pointing out that the 28 major disasters documented by NOAA last year led to "at least 492 deaths, the eighth-most disaster-related fatalities for the contiguous U.S. in the last four decades."

Last year's costliest U.S. disasters included 17 severe weather or hail events, four flooding events, two tornado outbreaks, two tropical cyclones, one drought and heatwave, one winter storm, and one wildfire—which killed 101 people in Maui.

The ticker update comes less than nine months away from the U.S. general election. Democratic President Joe Biden is seeking reelection and former President Donald Trump is the likely Republican nominee—despite trying to overturn his 2020 loss, inciting an insurrection, and facing a total of 91 felony charges across four ongoing criminal cases.

In the 2020 election cycle, Biden campaigned on bold climate promises. While he has won praise for some progress, such as signing the Inflation Reduction Act two years ago and pausing approvals for liquefied natural gas exports last month, the Democrat has also been criticized from groups who helped elect him for backing certain oil and gas projects, blowing off the latest United Nations climate summit, continuing fossil fuel lease sales, and declining to declare a national climate emergency.

Climate Action Campaign's Margie Alt framed the ticker update as further proof that Biden must go much further on climate action.

"Every passing moment, the relentless onslaught of climate change inflicts a toll on our environment, our health, and our wallets—to the tune of nearly $3,000 per second," she said Friday. "This exorbitant price tag, driven by an unparalleled number of weather and climate disasters, reinforces the urgent need for the Biden administration to use every tool at their disposal to cut climate pollution."

"The Inflation Reduction Act, signed into law by President Biden in 2022, has provided a glimpse of the progress that can be made, delivering unprecedented investments to confront the escalating climate crisis," she added. "However, the Cost of Inaction Ticker shows just how much still needs to be done and the price we pay by failing to act."

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