International Development News
Development News Edition

Cost of natural disasters like hurricanes Katrina, Maria are increasing at high end

While the economic cost of natural disasters has not increased much on average, averages can be deceptive.


Cost of natural disasters like hurricanes Katrina, Maria are increasing at high end
On the morning of Nov. 8, 2018, the Camp Fire erupted 90 miles north of Sacramento, California. By evening, the fast-moving fire had charred around 18,000 acres and remained zero percent contained. Image Credit: NASA

According to an international team of researchers, The costs of major disasters like hurricanes Katrina, Maria and Dorian or the massive tornado swarms in the Midwest have increased to a disproportionately larger extent than those of lesser events, and these major disasters have become far more expensive

While the economic cost of natural disasters has not increased much on average, averages can be deceptive.

According to the researchers, climate change is linked to an increase in the frequency and intensity of natural disasters, which leads to the necessity of planning for and evaluating the risk of these disasters.

Two years after Hurricane Maria, Puerto Rico is still recovering, and weeks after Dorian decimated Abaco and Grand Bahama, the recovery process of what looks like an enormous blast zone is still unclear. The impacts on New Orleans of Hurricane Katrina in 2005 are still visible in that city today.

Aerial view of forest fire with streaming smoke

With the larger, dramatic events becoming more costly, understanding the impacts and planning for future costs are important. If only averages are looked at, people can miss important changes.

"Large events can overwhelm local infrastructures," said Klaus Keller, professor of geosciences and director of the Center for Climate Risk Management at Penn State. "Many decision-makers are designing strategies to manage climate risk. The success of these strategies often hinges critically on how extreme events are changing."

Policies based only on average annual or decadal costs do not account for the increasing impact of the most dramatic events.

"Things really ramp up at the top 5% mark," said Chiaromonte, who is also scientific coordinator of the EMbeDS Department of Excellence at the Sant'Anna School of Advanced studies in Pisa, Italy. "And when we get to the top 1%, damages increased approximately 20 fold between 1970 and 2010."

The researchers chose a quantile regression to analyze the data to move away from "average" data findings. They also accounted for some important controls, such as changes in population and wealth over time. Even when accounting for these changes, single-event damages in the top 1% are estimated to increase by $26 million every year.

Flooded, destroyed area of Pascagoula

"While the effect of time on averages is hard to detect, effects on extreme damages are large, statistically significant and growing with increasing percentiles," the researchers report today (Oct. 7) in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The researchers note that increases in the costs of extreme natural disasters are not uniform around the globe. They appear more dramatic in areas traditionally considered temperate.

"This may be due to the fact that extreme disasters are now hitting temperate areas as well as the fact that these areas are less prepared to deal with extreme disasters compared to tropical regions," said Chiaromonte. "Tropical regions, especially those in the rich part of the world, have developed mechanisms to attenuate the impacts of extreme disasters. Similar efforts may, in fact, be needed in areas that we have traditionally considered 'safer.'"

While the economic impact of extreme natural disasters is increasing, based on the data considered in the study, mortality is on a downward trend, perhaps because of lower vulnerabilities, improved early warning systems and evacuation systems, and more effective relief efforts. However, this should not breed complacency, the researchers note. The data indicate an increase in casualties linked to extreme temperature events.

An important implication of this study is that the insurance industry and public disaster management institutions should expect to face increasing economic losses, the researchers said. Another important implication is that adaptation measures will be critical in temperate areas as well as in the tropics.

The researchers also note that if part of the shift to larger, more expensive, natural disasters is the result of climate change, then mitigation of climate change is an obvious approach to mitigating economic impacts.


TRENDING

OPINION/BLOG/INTERVIEW

No lessons learnt, Delhi again facing haze and hazardous Air pollution

While the parliamentarians in the Rajya Sabha Upper House were engaged in allegations and counter allegations on Thursday, the pollution was rising outside which soon took the form of a haze....

How to turn the aging population productive, ADB shows the path

Mature and older workers are not necessarily unproductive, and they may perform continuously well in certain types of work, but their productivity in others may naturally decline. In addition, the scarcity of young-to-middle-aged workers co...

How music can help expectant mothers during pregnancy

Music provides pleasant ambience for all but its more important for expectant mothers as besides ensuring pleasant environment for them it also directly and indirectly influences the unborn babies. There are various scientific findings to c...

EdTech: A technical approach to flexible and cost-effective education

Its hight time for the world to go for innovative approaches like e-learning over traditional learning methods that need physical infrastructure, long-term planning, and huge investment. ...

Videos

Latest News

21 girl students set off on month-long cyclothon

Twenty-one students set off on a month-long cyclothon from Jammu to Kanyakumari for the cause of girls education. The 3,700-km cyclothon has been organised by P N Doshi Womens College in Mumbai in collaboration with Jammu Universitys Direct...

Why scrap final NRC after taking credit of draft, asks Gogoi

Veteran Congress leader Tarun Gogoi on Friday asked the BJP-led central government to make it clear why the final NRC would be scrapped, when the saffron party had taken all the credit and promised to deport 40 lakh illegal immigrants after...

French ex-minister charged in EU 'fake jobs' scandal

Paris, Nov 22 AFP Former French justice minister Michel Mercier has been charged with complicity in the embezzlement of public money over allegations his party gave members suspected fake jobs as European Parliament assistants, legal source...

India needs to tighten up its procurement, protection processes of defence technology: US official

As India plans to acquire the S-400 missile system from Russia, the Trump administration has said New Delhi needs to tighten up its procurement and protection processes of defence technology to be a tighter and closer partner of the US. Ack...

Give Feedback