Majority of households have been affected by severe weather events

Story at a glance


  • Extreme weather events, like severe flooding, are affecting larger swathes of the US

  • A new poll finds that 78 percent of people surveyed have experienced a severe weather event in the last five years.

  • Respondents report health problems, as well as property damage as a result.

Extreme weather events, like heavy rainfall, wildfires and heat waves, are happening more and more frequently, partly due to climate change. This week, millions of people in the West and South are getting hit by a heat wave. While many people around the world have seen the effects of natural disasters year after year, people in the US are experiencing these types of events as well. A new poll finds that the majority of households in the US have been affected by extreme weather events, which have some health problems and financial problems for some.

In a recent poll published today by NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health, 78 percent of adults in the U.S. say they have been affected by extreme weather events in the past five years.

For those who have been affected by severe weather events, some report serious health problems (24 percent) or financial problems (17 percent). Fourteen percent of them say they’ve evacuated from their homes and 14 percent say they’ve damaged their home or property.

The poll was conducted earlier this year from March 31 through May 5 by landline, mobile phone and online. Overall, 2,646 US adults were surveyed, including people from different racial groups and ethnic groups.

“Robert J. Blendon, co-director of the survey and Richard L. Menschel Professor of Public Health and Health, says” Professor of Health Policy and Political Analysis Emeritus at Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health in a press release. “Experiencing these weather disasters has a significant impact on the future of climate change.”

The groups who put together the poll also asked respondents about climate change. Climate change is intricately tied to the severity and frequency of extreme weather events. According to the poll, people who have experienced these events in the past five years are more likely to say that climate change is a crisis (77 percent) or major problem compared to people who have not experienced a natural disaster (46 percent).

Broadly, 65 percent of the public thinks the government should be doing more to limit climate change, according to the report. However, the poll’s findings suggest that people who have direct experience with extreme weather are more likely to think more action is needed. In particular, 64 percent of people who have experienced severe weather events should be able to [their] area more resistant to extreme weather, even if it raises electricity prices. ” For those who have not experienced these types of events, 47 percent agreed with the statement.

Currently, 63 percent agree with the statement that “State government spending increases to better prepare your state for future weather disasters, even if it requires you to pay higher taxes.”

The effects are largely felt and will continue to be felt by communities of color and marginalized people. The poll found 51 percent of Native Americans, 31 percent of Latino adults, 30 percent of Asian adults, 29 percent of Black adults, and 18 percent of white adults who have experienced severe weather in the last five years problems as a result.

“The research is clear that communities are predominantly home to people of color, those with lower incomes, or rural areas feel the harms of extreme weather and climate change first and worst,” says Alonzo Plow, Chief Science Officer and vice president of Research-Evaluation-Learning at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation in press release. “This poll shows that people are likely to be affected sooner and more likely to see climate change as a threat to the health of their families.”

Published on Jun. 21, 2022

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