Minnesota ranks fifth in study on weather damage

Megan Boldt

Minnesota was ranked fifth in the nation for extreme-weather damage during the 1990s by a study released Thursday by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group.
Damages in Minnesota exceeded $5 billion throughout the decade, plus $2.7 billion more spent on government assistance.
According to the study, the 1990s was the hottest decade on record.
Extreme weather includes floods, fires, droughts, heat waves and downpours — all of which occur more often in higher temperatures, the study explained. As global temperatures continue to rise, so will the amount of extreme weather.
“The findings highlight the fact that what scientists have been saying about global warming is true,” said Brian Cohen, spokesman for USPIRG.
In 1999, Minnesota lost $65 million in insured losses and spent more than $212 million in government assistance from weather damage.
But University professor Donald Baker said the results must be looked at closely.
“Saying global warming is the culprit of all the weather changes is questionable,” Baker said. “That is something that still needs to be answered.”
Variability in climate is not unusual, Baker said. There was a period called “the Benign Climate” from the 1950s to 1970s when the climate was relatively uneventful.
“This amount of variability in weather is nothing new,” Baker added.
USPIRG does recognize it is impossible to connect particular weather occurrences to global warming. But with all the damage occurring, the organization wants the government to start investing in pollution reduction policies to prevent more destruction, Cohen said.
“We simply cannot afford to keep fiddling while the earth burns,” Cohen said.
The four states with more weather damage than Minnesota are Florida, Texas, California and North Carolina.
Weather-related disasters took 4,000 lives and caused $200 billion in economic loss in the United States during the last decade, according to the study.
Megan Boldt welcomes comments at [email protected] She can also be reached at (612) 627-4070 x3212.