We are now firmly ensconced in the Age of Extreme Weather.

According to the Center for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters, there have been more than four times as many weather-related disasters in the last 30 years than in the previous 75 years. The United States has experienced more of those disasters than any other country.
Just this month, a swarm of tornadoes shredded the central states.

California and Florida have been scorched by wildfires, and a crippling drought in the Southeast has forced Georgia to authorize plans for new reservoirs.

Who do we have to thank for all this? Probably ourselves.

Last year, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued reports concluding that “human influences” (read greenhouse-gas emissions) have “more likely than not” contributed to this increase.

The United States is one of the biggest producers of greenhouse-gas emissions.

Furthermore, a White House report about the effect of global climate change on the United States issued Thursday (years late and under court order) reaffirmed that the situation will probably get worse: In addition to temperature extremes, “precipitation is likely to be less frequent but more intense.

It is also likely that future hurricanes will become more intense, with higher peak speeds and more heavy precipitation … .”
This increase is deadly and disruptive — and could become economically unbearable.

According to the National Hurricane Center, 10 of the 30 costliest American hurricanes have struck since 2000, even after adjusting the figures for inflation and the cost of construction.

In 2005, the year of Hurricane Katrina, the estimated damage from storms in the United States was $121 billion. That is $39 billion more than the 2005 supplemental spending bill to fight the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

About $3 billion has been allocated to assist farmers who suffer losses because of droughts, floods and tornadoes among other things.

And, a recent report in The Denver Post said the Forest Service plans to spend 45 percent, or $1.9 billion, of its budget this year fighting forest fires.

This surge in disasters and attendant costs is yet another reason we need to declare a coordinated war on climate change akin to the wars on drugs and terror. It’s a matter of national security.

By the way, hurricane season begins Sunday.

*Text By CHARLES M. BLOW; May 31, 2008