State of the Climate Crisis 2022

This past year, the United States experienced devastating extreme weather events such as wildfires, heat waves, and hurricanes. Unsurprisingly, these extreme weather events disproportionately impacted the health, livelihoods, and overall well-being of communities of color in the United States. The Inflation Reduction Law includes investments in communities that have been hit the hardest by fossil fuel polluters and the climate crisis they cause. However, it is only the first step in reaching our climate goals. Without further action and bold investments in clean energy and resilient infrastructure, we won’t be able to stem the worst impacts of climate change – making it more difficult to save our people, our country, and our planet.

Below, you can find some of the data that has already been reported for 2022, as well as background on what we need to do in order to decisively change course.

Top Climate Impacts Of 2022

  • Another Active Atlantic Tropical Storm Season – This year’s Atlantic Hurricane season produced 14 named storms, including eight hurricanes, two of which were category 4 hurricanes. So far this year, tropical storms have caused 156 deaths.

  • Hurricane Ian Ranked As The Fifth Deadliest Hurricane – Hurricane Ian became the fifth-deadliest U.S. hurricane in the past 60 years. It is expected to rank among the top 10 most destructive storms on record. Early estimates from damage surveys indicate it was one of the costliest storms in U.S. history, with insured losses between $53 billion to $74 billion. Ian displaced tens of thousands of people. Economists also say that tens of thousands of people were likely left jobless by Ian.

  • Hurricane Fiona Exacerbated Puerto Rico’s Energy Crisis – Five years after Hurricane Maria, Puerto Rico was slammed by Hurricane Fiona, causing an islandwide blackout. Puerto Ricans are also facing a mental health crisis, as hurricanes, earthquakes, and a global pandemic have traumatized island residents, destroyed homes, and ripped families apart over the last five years.

  • Third Hottest Summer On Record – The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration declared summer 2022 the third-hottest summer on record in the U.S. In records going back to 1895, five of the ten warmest U.S. summers have occurred over the past decade.

  • Devastating Western Wildfires – So far this year, wildfires in the west have burned more than 5.8 million acres. From April 6 to August 21, 2022, New Mexico’s largest and most destructive wildfire, the Calf Canyon-Hermits Peak Fire, burned through 341,735 acres, damaging or destroying over 1,000 structures. Compounding the wildfires, residents in New Mexico then faced flash floods in fire-scarred areas in July and August.

  • Hazardous Air Quality – More than 40% of Americans — over 137 million people — live in places with failing grades for unhealthy levels of particle pollution or ozone. In 2022, all 21 counties that received a failing grade for annual particle pollution were in five western states, likely due to western wildfires and extreme heat. People of color are also 3.6 times more likely than white people to live in counties with failing grades across all three pollutant categories.

  • Western Megadrought – The megadrought in the American Southwest has become so severe that it’s now the driest two decades in the region in at least 1,200 years. 42% of this megadrought can be attributed to human-caused climate change.

  • Western Water Shortage – Lake Mead and Lake Powell – the nation’s two largest reservoirs – now sit three-quarters empty. The most recent federal projections show that they could each decline below a critical threshold in the next two years. This year, nearly 1,400 household wells have been reported dry in California— an almost 40% increase over the same period last year and the highest annual number reported since 2013. Areas with the highest number of well failures included Fresno, Madera, Tulare, and Tehama counties, which have Latino majority populations.

  • Heat Deaths On The Rise –  During the Summer of 2022,  intense heat waves shattered daily temperature records, leaving millions across the U.S. to deal with dangerously high temperatures. Arizona’s Maricopa County has seen seven back-to-back record-setting years for extreme heat deaths. In 2022, Maricopa County recorded 359 heat-associated fatalities, up from 339 in 2021. The population of Maricopa County is 32% Latino/Hispanic, 5% Black, and 1% Native American.

  • Winter Storm Landon Hit On The One Year Anniversary Of  Winter Storm Uri – One year after Winter Storm Uri, Winter Storm Landon delivered several inches of snow and damaging ice through more than a dozen states in early February 2022. Landon caused the worst icing in Texas state history, and at the peak of the storm, more than 330,000 homes and businesses from Pennsylvania to Texas lost power.

  • Deadly Tornadoes Raised Questions About A “New Normal” Under Climate Change – With at least 210 confirmed tornadoes, 2022 produced the most twisters on record for the month of March. Tornado outbreaks in March and April resulted in at least $2.7 billion in damages and five deaths. The U.S. has the world’s highest tornado risk, and the zone most susceptible to tornadoes, known as “Tornado Alley,” may be shifting eastward due to climate change.


2022 Climate Crisis Summary

Year-To-Date Key Stats

Number Of Atlantic Storms: 14 named storms (including 8 hurricanes, 2 of which were considered major.)

Number Of Category 4 Or Higher Hurricanes: 2 (Fiona, which hit Puerto Rico in September, and Ian, which landed in Florida in September)

Number Of Deaths From Hurricanes And Tropical Storms: 156 U.S. deaths (Fiona: 25 and Ian: 131.)

Number Of Deaths From Severe Storms: 10

Number Of Deaths From Flooding: 42

Number Of Deaths From Drought: 117

Number Of Deaths From Wildfires: 17

Total Deaths From Climate Related Events As of 12/12/2022: 342

Estimated Damage Costs From Climate Disasters Through September: $29.3 billion (damages from Hurricane Ian, Hurricane Fiona, and western wildfires are still to be counted.)

Wildfire Acres Burned As Of 12/7/2022:  7,343,939

Latinos Are The Most Concerned By The Climate Crisis – And They Want Solutions Now

  • The climate crisis is a growing top concern for the Latino community in the United States. The majority of Latinos say they want climate action in Congress and voice support for a transition to a clean energy economy.

  • The majority of Latinos (81%) are concerned about air and water pollution and believe clean energy investments are essential to a more just and safer future.

  • A 2022 Axios-Ipsos and Noticias Telemundo poll found that climate change is the fourth highest concern among Latinos after inflation, gun violence, and immigration.

  • It’s no surprise Latinos are concerned about the impact of climate change – they are already vulnerable to air pollution from fossil fuel sources, live in areas affected by extreme heat and wildfires, and face flooding from sea level rise and storms.

The Inflation Reduction Law Is The First Step To Meet Our Climate Goals

  • Latino businesses, workers, and families will benefit from the billions of dollars invested in manufacturing and clean energy expansion. Out of the $369 billion allocated to climate and energy in the Inflation Reduction Law, nearly $280 billion goes towards clean energy tax incentives.

  • The Inflation Reduction Law is projected to cut household energy costs by over $1,000 annually.

    • According to a 2020 survey, 36% of Black households (6 million), 28% of Latino households (4.6 million), and 36% of Native American households (541,155) experience a high energy burden (above 6%).

    • According to a survey on electricity utility equity conducted by Indiana University’s Energy Justice Lab, nearly 40% of Hispanic households and more than 26% of Black households said that they were unable to pay their electricity bill.

  • The Inflation Reduction Law is projected to create 1.5 million new jobs. Latino workers already represent nearly 17% of the clean energy workforce, and 31.7% of solar photovoltaic (PV) installers are Latino.

  • The Inflation Reduction Law will reduce emissions and help mitigate climate change, supporting Latino families who are disproportionately impacted by extreme weather.

    • The Inflation Reduction Law will put the U.S. on a path to reduce emissions by 40% by 2030, reducing negative health impacts and preventing further global heating.

      • According to the 2022 State of the Air report by the American Lung Association, people of color are 3.6 times more likely than white people to live in counties with failing grades across all three pollutant categories and 61% more likely than white people to live in a county with a failing grade for at least one pollutant.

    • The Inflation Reduction Law includes  $3 billion for the Environmental and Climate Justice Block Grants to reduce pollution and climate risks through community-led projects in disadvantaged communities.

    • The Inflation Reduction Law also allocates $3 billion for the Neighborhood Access and Equity Grants to improve transportation access for neighborhoods cut apart by highways.

    • The Inflation Reduction Law provides $3 billion for grants to reduce air pollution at ports, and $1 billion for clean heavy-duty vehicles, like school and transit buses and garbage trucks.

2022 Is Our Last Chance To Avert Catastrophe

If we don’t take action immediately, we’ll miss our narrow window to avert the worst impacts of the climate crisis.

  • The Earth is the hottest it has ever been in the last 12,000 years.

  • The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration found that the summer of 2022 was the hottest on record for Europe and China and the second-hottest for North America and Asia.

    • Summer 2022 ranked the third-hottest summer on record in the U.S. in 128 years. The average temperature for the contiguous U.S. was 73.9 degrees Fahrenheit, 2.5 degrees above average.

  • The current rate of greenhouse gas pollution is so high that without significant, immediate emissions reductions, the Earth has less than 10 years to rein in emissions if countries want to avoid the worst damage from climate change in the future.

    • If the current level of emissions persists, there is a 50% chance that global warming of 1.5°C will be exceeded in nine years., 1.7°C in 18 years, and 2°C in 30 years.

    • The 2022 UN Emissions Gap report found that there is no credible pathway to limit global warming to 1.5°C. Even if countries meet their climate commitments, emissions will only reduce by 10% in 2030. The world must cut emissions by 45% by 2030 to avoid global catastrophe.

    • In March 2022, U.N. secretary-general António Guterres warned the global climate target ‘is on life support.’ To have a chance of avoiding global warming’s most destructive impacts, the world must cut greenhouse gas pollution nearly in half by 2030 and erase its carbon footprint entirely by mid-century.

    • Under current policy, expected GHG emissions reductions were only 24 to 35%; however, the Inflation Reduction Law is estimated to bring GHG emissions down by about 31 to 44% or 37 to 41% below 2005 levels by 2030.

  • The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) 2022 report showed if the limit of warming beyond 1.5 degrees is breached, some changes will be irreversible for hundreds — if not thousands — of years. And some changes may be permanent, even if the planet cools back down.

    • If warming is not contained to the 1.5°C threshold, the world will face a high risk of “cascading tipping points” that irreversibly lock in catastrophic levels of warming, including massive dieback in the Amazon, thawing boreal forests that will release dangerous carbon and methane, and massive collapsing ice sheets.

  • If we don’t act soon, there will be no stopping increases in natural disasters such as hurricanes, heat waves, wildfires, and droughts, which will cost trillions of dollars and millions of lives.

    • As of October 2022, only 26 of the 193 countries that agreed to step up their climate actions have followed through with their plans. The planet is currently on track to warm by an average of 2.1 to 2.9 degrees.

    • The changing climate has been shown to have a disproportionate effect on people of color in the U.S. If global temperatures increase by 3.6 degrees compared to the 1986-2005 average and sea levels rise by about 19.7 inches relative to 2000, people of color are more likely to face the impacts of PM2.5 childhood asthma diagnoses, extreme temperature mortality, extreme temperature labor hours lost, and coastal flooding property loss.

  • In October 2022, UN Special Rapporteur, Ian Fry, warned, “Throughout the world, human rights are being negatively impacted and violated as a consequence of climate change. This includes the right to life, health, food, development, self-determination, water and sanitation, work, adequate housing, and freedom from violence, sexual exploitation, trafficking, and slavery.”

Without action to address the climate crisis, millions will be displaced, poverty will be exacerbated, our national security will be at greater risk, and animal and plant species will face extinction.

  • According to the 2022 IPCC report, coastal, riverine, and urban flooding affecting communities and ecosystems will become a dominant risk to urban centers, displacing people, compromising economic activity, disrupting transportation and trade infrastructure.

    • Large wildfires will increasingly endanger lives, livelihoods, mental and physical health, property, key infrastructure, and economic activities and contribute to compromised air quality and municipal water contamination with multiple human health implications.

  • Without climate action, 100 million people will be pushed into poverty by 2030, and by 2050, 143 million people will be displaced from their homes by climate change.

  • The extreme impacts of climate change are already increasingly driving migration from Central America, forcing people to leave their communities and countries in search of safety. Meanwhile, in the U.S., undocumented workers hold jobs that are the most vulnerable to extreme weather.

    • A June 2022 report from Public Citizen found that heat causes at least 170,000 work-related injuries and as many as 2,000 fatalities each year. Low-income, Black, and Brown workers are disproportionately affected by work heat-stress tragedies.

    • Farm workers – the vast majority of whom are immigrants, many undocumented – are the most vulnerable to heat-related injury and death.

  • According to an April 2022 assessment by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), climate change could cost the U.S. budget $2 trillion a year by the end of the century.

    • The report also found that the federal government could spend an additional $25 billion to $128 billion annually on expenditures such as coastal disaster relief, flood, crop, and healthcare insurance, wildfire suppression, and flooding at federal facilities.

    • The OMB’s analysis warned that intensifying wildfires could increase federal fire suppression costs by between $1.55 billion and $9.60 billion each year by the end of the century.

    • More frequent hurricanes could drive up annual spending on coastal-disaster response to between $22 billion and $94 billion by 2100.

    • 12,000 federal buildings across the country could be flooded by 10 feet due to rising sea levels, with total replacement costs of more than $43.7 billion.

  • A 2022 report found that if the U.S. switched entirely to cleaner energy vehicles and power plants, it would not only benefit the environment but also save an estimated 110,000 lives and $1.2 trillion in health costs over the next 30 years.

    • About 3% of U.S. counties with the highest populations of people of color would disproportionately benefit from a transition to electric vehicles and non-combustion electricity generation, the report estimates.

  • According to the 2022 IPCC report, limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, rather than 2 degrees, “could reduce the number of people exposed to climate-related risks and susceptible to poverty by up to several hundred million by 2050.”

  • If nothing is done, 30% of all animal and plant species on earth will go extinct by 2070, and as many as 70% will face extinction if they cannot adapt to a new ecological niche.

Historical Comparisons

In May 2022, NOAA warned of an “above normal” Atlantic hurricane season, expecting 14 to 21 named storms, including 6-10 hurricanes. The season included Hurricane Ian, which ranked as the fifth-deadliest Atlantic hurricane of the past 60 years and tied for the fifth-strongest hurricane ever to make landfall in the U.S.