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Nathan Willcox,
Environment Ohio

72 percent of Ohioans Live in Areas Hit by Recent Weather Disasters; New Report Says Global Warming to Bring More Extreme Weather

Interactive Online Map Shows County-by-County Weather-Related Disaster History
For Immediate Release

After another year in which many parts of the country were hit by scorching heat, devastating wildfires, crippling drought, severe storms and record flooding, a new Environment Ohio Research & Policy Center report finds that weather-related disasters are already affecting hundreds of millions of Americans, and documents how global warming could lead to certain extreme weather events becoming even more common or more severe in the future.

Almost 3 out of 4 Ohioans live in counties hit by at least one weather-related disaster since 2007. “Millions of Ohioans have endured extreme weather causing extremely big problems for Ohio’s health, safety, environment and economy,” said Julian Boggs, State Policy Advocate with Environment Ohio Research & Policy Center. “Given that global warming will likely fuel even more extreme weather, we need to cut dangerous carbon pollution now.”

The new report, entitled “In the Path of the Storm,” examined county-level weather-related disaster declaration data from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for 2007 through 2012 to determine how many Ohioans live in counties hit by recent weather disasters. The complete county-level data can be viewed through an interactive map available here. The report also details the latest science on the projected influence of global warming on heavy rain and snow; heat, drought and wildfires; and hurricanes and coastal storms. Finally, the report explores how the damage from even non-extreme weather events could increase due to other impacts of global warming like sea level rise.

Environment Ohio Research & Policy Center was joined by State Representative Nikki Antonio of Lakewood and State Climatologist Jeff Rogers in releasing the new report.

 “Here in Ohio, we’ve taken huge steps to expand renewable energy and energy efficiency. We can take pride that our state is now producing enough renewable energy to power over 100,000 homes, and utility efficiency programs under the law are saving enough energy to power hundreds of thousands more homes,” said Representative Antonio. “But without bolder action, including federal limits on carbon pollution, the super-storms like the ones that tore through west Cleveland last October will increasingly become the new normal.”

Key findings from the Environment Ohio Research & Policy Center report include:

  •  Since 2007, federally declared weather-related disasters affected 64 counties in Ohio housing 8,400,900 people—or nearly 73 out of 100 Ohioans. Recent weather-related disasters in Ohio included disasters related to Hurricane Sandy, severe windstorms from Hurricane Ike and severe storms and straight-line winds. Hurricane Sandy caused devastation and power outages all across Cuyahoga County. The severe wind storms from Ike in the fall of 2008 ravaged all of Ohio, uprooting trees, destroying power lines and costing tax payers in property damage and personal injury.
  • In 2012 alone, federally declared weather-related disasters affected Ohio counties housing 4,506,096 people. Nationally, 11 weather disasters inflicted economic damages of $1 billion or more.

Boggs noted that every weather event is now a product of a climate system where global warming “loads the dice” for extreme weather, though in different ways for different types of extreme weather. While the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change recently concluded that it is “virtually certain” that hot days will become hotter and “likely” that extreme precipitation events will continue to increase worldwide, there is less scientific consensus about the impact of global warming on events such as tornadoes.

Ohio State Climatologist Jeff Rogers noted that Ohio in particular is likely to see an increase in precipitation. “Ohio’s warming climate is especially apparent from December through April, when nearly 3 dozen record daytime highs (temperature) have been set in just this century.  In summer, warming manifests itself by much warmer and more humid nights.  Each of the last 3 summers, 2010, 2011, and 2012 are among the warmest dozen summers statewide since 1895.”

“Extreme weather is happening, it is causing very serious problems, and global warming increases the likelihood that we’ll see even more extreme weather in the future,” said Boggs. “Carbon pollution from our power plants, cars and trucks is fueling global warming, and so tackling global warming demands that we cut emissions of carbon pollution from those sources.”

Environment Ohio Research & Policy Center called on decision-makers at the local, state and federal level to cut carbon pollution by expanding efforts to clean up the largest sources of pollution, shifting to clean, renewable energy, using less energy overall, and avoiding new dirty energy projects that make the carbon pollution problem even worse.

The report was released shortly after the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee voted narrowly to confirm Gina McCarthy as Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency. The confirmation passed on a narrow 10-8 party-line vote, setting the stage for a contentious nomination for the leader of the agency charged with developing carbon pollution limits for power plants—the largest single source of the carbon pollution that is fueling global warming.

“Between the millions of Americans who have spoken in support of strong action to address global warming, and the threat that extreme weather poses to our communities and future generations, we desperately need the president to follow his recent strong statements on global warming with equally strong action,” said Boggs.

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Environment Ohio Research & Policy Center is a statewide environmental policy organization dedicated to independent research and education to protect Ohio’s air, water, and open spaces.