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Home » We Don’t Know How Many People Are Killed By Extreme Weather. This Means Even More People Will Die.

We Don’t Know How Many People Are Killed By Extreme Weather. This Means Even More People Will Die.

We Don’t Know How Many People Are Killed By Extreme Weather. This Means Even More People Will Die.

No one is accurately measuring how many people are dying from climate change and extreme weather. This is a fatal mistake that takes pressure off political leaders.

The number of people who die from extreme weather in the US is being alarmingly undercounted. Without accurate knowledge of the true loss of human life, it will be hard to know how to save more people when the next disaster strikes. Families of the uncounted victims will struggle to get benefits, political leaders will not feel the pressure to better prepare, and people will not realize how lethal climate change really is in the US, right now.

As global warming brings more intense weather extremes, the need for more reliable data is literally a matter of life and death. Here’s how and why the data is so inaccurate.

Take the unprecedented heat wave that hit the Pacific Northwest in late June and early July. According to data downloaded from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Storm Events Database, supposed to be a key US resource on the impacts of extreme weather, only seven people died in Washington state from excessive heat.

During this time, emergency services were overwhelmed by calls for help, and coroners later recorded that dozens of people had died from heat-related illnesses; it's absurd to suggest that the death toll was in single figures. Having combed through death certificates, state authorities eventually put the number of people who perished in Washington at 119 between June 26 and July 2. Yet the toll for the state in NOAA’s database remained unchanged (the database was down at the time of publication).

Even more troubling is that the state’s toll of 119 is also a massive undercount. This is according to a BuzzFeed News analysis that examines how many more people die after a given event, comparing it to the number predicted from long-term and seasonal trends.


No one is accurately measuring how many people are dying from climate change and extreme weather. This is a fatal mistake that takes pressure off political leaders.
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