Sunday, August 28, 2016

US Faces Rising Hurricane Bill

Scientists forecast that hurricane damage could increase dramatically in the US as high-income countries are also threatened by extreme weather events.

Hurricane Katrina left a trail of devastation when it hit US cities such as New Orleans in 2005. (Image Credit: Infrogmation of New Orleans / Flickr) Click to Enlarge.
German scientists have just issued a financial weather forecast that in a world of unmitigated climate change, the financial losses for the US per hurricane could triple, and annual losses due to hurricanes could rise eightfold.

And, they calculate that however vigorous the US economy, its growth cannot outpace the projected rising costs of hurricane damage in the decades ahead.

More than half of all weather-related economic losses around the globe are caused by damage due to tropical cyclones, hurricanes or typhoons, and the lessons of new research in Environmental Research Letters journal is that high-income countries may be no better protected than the poorest in this respect.

“So far, historical losses due to tropical cyclones have been found to increase less than linearly with a nation’s affected gross domestic product (GDP),” says Tobias Geiger, climate impacts and vulnerabilities researcher at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK), who led the study.

Hurricane losses
“However, if you analyze losses with respect to per capita income and population growth separately, this reveals a different picture.  Our analysis for the United States shows that high income does not protect against hurricane losses.

“As the number and intensity of tropical cyclones is projected to increase under unchecked global warming by the end of the century, average hurricane losses with respect to GDP could triple.”

The bill for hurricanes in the US between 1980 and 2014 is estimated at $400 billion − and that represents half of all meteorologically-induced damage.

Hurricane hazard is a function of sea temperatures: once surface temperatures exceed 26°C, the probabilities grow, and potential intensity grows too.  Global warming, of course, increases ocean temperatures, and therefore the hazard.
“Some people hope that a growing economy will be able to compensate for the damages caused by climate change – that we can outgrow climate change economically instead of mitigating it,” says another of the study’s authors, Anders Levermann, PIK professor of dynamics of the climate system.

“But what if damages grow faster than our economy, what if climate impacts hit faster than we are able to adapt?  We find this is the case with hurricane damage in the United States.  The hope in economic growth as an answer to climate change is ill-founded.”

Read more at US Faces Rising Hurricane Bill

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