Climate change will make our lives worse in the years to come, but a new report out last week highlights the stark costs people are already paying across the Atlantic. In 2012 alone, it found that in the US, 10 major climate-related events likely led to nearly 1,000 extra deaths, almost 21,000 hospitalisations, and an added $10 billion (£8 billion) in healthcare costs.
The linked report tots up effects and costs related to events influenced by climate events in 2012 (because that's the latest date where comprehensive medical records are available).
But there are some reasons to be skeptical of the estimates. One is that extreme climate events like hurricanes are common even without climate change (and the IPCC doesn't think they are statistically worse yet because of climate change). Also, a warming climate reduces deaths from cold as well as increasing deaths from heat (for those who doubt this: Excess winter deaths in the UK average around 50,000/yr but the biggest reported deaths from heatwaves are in the low thousands; Realclimate admits this general effect but argues, reasonably, that the effects may not be symmetric). And it isn't obvious whether the report has netted out either the lives saved from climate change or the baseline deaths that would have occurred even with no climate change.
So, is the net cost of climate change in the USA already billions in healthcare costs and perhaps 1,000 lives?