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More People Are Living In Floodplains, Research Shows

More people are living on floodplains than ever

The proportion of the world’s population exposed to floods grew by 58–86 million between 2000 and 2015, according to new research using data from NASA. Led by Beth Tellman, a geography researcher at the University of Arizona, the study also found that 255 million people were affected at least once by major floods during the same time.

Analyzing flood events from the past 20 years, researchers found that floods caused by heavy rains and tropical storms have increased as a result of climate change as well. Marsh McLennan has also indexed which countries are most at-risk of flooding.

Recently, the U.S. government announced a renewed approach to flood insurance, introducing risk-based premiums for its National Flood Insurance Program. The program should be able to cover catastrophic losses without having to borrow funds from the U.S. Treasury as well as incentivize property owners to invest in loss reduction measures that would lower the cost of insurance, reflecting lower expected claims in the future. 

 

Heatwave Grips Western US

The U.S. West Coast has endured record-breaking high temperatures in September as a heat dome trapped hot air over the region. On September 7, more than 61 million people were under extreme heat advisories in California, western Arizona, and southern Nevada. The heatwave fueled wildfires and stressed the power grid, as temperatures reached triple digits throughout the region before Tropical Storm Kay brought relief over the weekend. 

NASA scientists studying Southern California heat waves found that they are becoming more intense, more frequent, and longer-lasting. “If you look at the sheer magnitude of all-time high temperatures that were set — in any month, in any year — this heatwave is definitely unique,” Brian Kahn, an atmospheric scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, told NASA’s Earth Observatory

Extreme heat is becoming more common across the world, as climate change intensifies weather patterns. This summer alone, heatwaves rippled through Europe, North Africa, the Middle East, and Asia. The U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warns that the world has until 2030 to reduce carbon emissions by 43%, or the goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius will be out of reach.

U.S. Housing Sales Plummet to Two-Year Low

Housing sales in the U.S. have sunk to their lowest point since May 2020, declining by 5.9% in July. This is the sixth consecutive month that sales have declined, reflecting the impact of rising mortgage and interest rates. This is the first U.S. housing downturn since the Great Financial Crisis in 2007-2008.

Some experts project that housing sales may soon stabilize, as the mortgage rate falls from 6% in June to 5%. “Home sales may soon stabilize since mortgage rates have fallen to near 5%, thereby giving an additional boost of purchasing power to home buyers,” said National Association of Realtors Chief Economist Lawrence Yun in Trading Economics.

But researchers at Goldman Sachs project that the housing market downturn will continue into 2023. They predict that this year, new home sales will drop by 22%, existing home sales by 17%, and housing GDP by 8.9%. Despite the downturn, housing prices are expected to remain high due to inflation and a limited inventory of homes.

UK Prime Minister Caps Energy Bills As Costs Skyrocket

Source: The Economist

The United Kingdom’s new prime minister Liz Truss is under pressure to help Britons with energy costs, as natural gas prices skyrocket and winter approaches, reports The Economist

On August 26, energy regulator Ofgem reset its energy price cap, raising the average household’s monthly energy bills from 164 pounds ($194) to 296 pounds ($340), starting in October. Forecasts from Cornwall Insight consultancy group predict that without government intervention, energy bills will rise to 449 pounds ($516) in January and 551 pounds ($633) in April. Without government support, experts estimate that energy bills will make up 14% of the poorest fifth of households’ spending — double the amount before the pandemic. Middle-income households will also face steep prices, with 9-10% of their spending consumed by energy costs.

In response, Prime Minister Truss announced that energy bills will be capped for all households at 2,500 pounds ($2,874) a year — about $240 a month — until 2024. Businesses will also benefit from the price cap, though for a shorter period of six months.

Climate Change Causes Deadly Flooding in Pakistan

Source: The Economist

A deadly monsoon season in Pakistan has led to the country’s worst flooding in a decade, as climate change causes increasingly extreme weather around the world. 

By the end of August, Pakistan had received three times its annual average rainfall. Summer monsoon rains caused the worst flooding in areas around the Indus River, with some provinces receiving up to five or six times their 30-year average rainfall. More than 33 million people have been impacted by the flooding, and at least 1,100 people have died. 

Pakistan is responsible for less than 1% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, but it is the eighth-most vulnerable country to climate change. Some officials estimate that the recovery will cost $10 billion. The costs of flooding also affect the rest of the world: Flooding in 2021 destroyed more than 12 million acres of crops, contributing to the global surge in food prices. Worldwide, flooding has caused over 250,000 deaths and led to economic damage exceeding $1 trillion since 1980.

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