Despite President Donald Trump’s assertion that last week’s polar vortex left us in dire need of some global warming, the earth is, in fact, warming up, and fast. And according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association and NASA, 2018 was the fourth hottest year ever recorded. The five hottest years have all been in the past five years. What’s more: 18 of the 19 hottest years on record have occurred since 2001. These revelations came courtesy of a joint press conference from the two agencies, which have kept separate records of global temperatures dating back to the 1880s.
2018 was also the wettest year in the U.S. since 1983, and when you account for record droughts and wildfires around the west, that stat is all the more alarming. Per the Weather Channel, 2018 was the wettest year ever recorded for more than two dozen cities in the midwest and east. This is all to say that the predictions NASA has made about the effects of climate change—namely, that the east will get wetter and be more susceptible to flooding while the west gets drier and more susceptible to wildfires and droughts—seem to have already arrived.
And if this all feels a little 30,000-feet-up, the NOAA broke down what that means for Americans: In 2018 alone, natural disasters exacerbated by climate change cost the U.S. approximately $91 billion and results in the deaths of at least 247 people. Per the Washington Post, most of that damage ($73 billion) came from just three events: Hurricanes Michael and Florence and wildfires in the western United States. While last year wasn’t the costliest on record (2017 was), it still fits the trend of climate change costing the U.S. more and more as it worsens.
We’re just beginning to see the consequences of man-made climate change, and perhaps most alarming, CNN reports that the average global temperature has risen “a little over 1 degree Celsius, since the 1880s. That puts us more than two-thirds of the way to the warming limit of 1.5 degrees Celsius that was set in the Paris climate agreement.” In other words: drastic action needs to happen, and fast, before super-hurricanes and polar vortices and devastating droughts become the norm.