Heavy Weather: How Climate Destruction Harms Middle- and Lower-Income Americans

A report from the Center for American Progress reviews the most damaging extreme weather events in the US over the past two years and how climate change is increasing their frequency and severity, as well as why middle- and lower-income Americans are disproportionately harmed by extreme weather.

Hurricane Sandy is only the latest in a line of extreme weather events that severely afflicted Americans over the past two years and an overlooked aspect of these disasters is the rate at which they harm middle- and lower-income households in the U.S.
Recent extreme weather events include destructive wildfires in Colorado, record-breaking temperatures across the nation, and severe thunderstorms and tornadoes across the Midwest.
Scientists predict heat waves, wildfires, hurricanes, and severe storms will become more frequent and/or severe if the industrial carbon pollution responsible for climate change remains unchecked.
Most of the extreme weather events in 2011 and 2012 harmed counties with household incomes below the U.S. median annual household income of $51,914.
The households in the declared disaster areas that experienced five or more billion-dollar extreme weather events earn an average of 7% less than the U.S. median household income.
The disasters of 2011 and 2012 serve as a tragic—and expensive—foreshadowing of future weather disasters in what has become the new climate “normal.”
Children, the elderly, the infirm, and lower-income people are much more vulnerable to health impacts from climate change than the rest of the population.
Center for American Progress policy recommendations:
  • The Obama administration should promulgate the proposed carbon pollution reduction standard for new power plants
  • The administration should propose and promulgate carbon pollution standards for existing power plants and oil refineries
  • Existing infrastructure should be hardened to become more resilient to floods, severe storms, and other effects of climate change
  • Congress should provide $5 billion annually—full funding—for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, or LIHEAP, to assist low-income families with higher utility bills due to extreme heat and cold
  • The Obama administration and Congress should oppose budget cuts in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program to ensure that there is adequate funding for Disaster SNAP that assists people harmed by natural disasters to purchase food
  • Congress should reauthorize the National Dam Safety Program and provide $1 billion annually to rehabilitate our rundown dam and levee infrastructure that helps reduce flood risk
  • Flood insurance for primary homes of middle- and lower-income households should be more affordable. A means-tested voucher program could help them purchase it
  • Replenish the Pre-Disaster Mitigation Program fund, which enables local com- munities to evaluate their disaster risks and develop plans to make them more resilient to extreme weather damages. This annual funding should equal the three year average of federal disaster recovery spending

Date: 2012
Strategic Approach: Framing, Other
Strategic Approach: Framing, Other

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