Study: The Biggest Natural Disasters Are Also Getting More Costly
While it doesn’t appear at first glance that the cost of natural disasters has seen a major increase, a recent study found that the cost of the most major disasters – such as hurricanes Katrina, Maria, and Dorian – have grown far more expensive.
Researchers from the Penn State Center for Climate Risk Management and the European Union Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation program reported in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Evaluating the frequency and intensity of recent natural disasters including major hurricanes and tornadoes, they examined the distribution of damages averaged to determine economic impacts.
Their findings: only considering the average cost of the damages obscures the fact that, among other things, the largest events are the ones that completely overwhelm local infrastructures.
“Many decision-makers are designing strategies to manage climate risk,” said Klaus Keller, director of the Center for Climate Risk Management. “The success of these strategies often hinges critically on how extreme events are changing,” which often doesn’t account for the rising financial impact of the largest events.
These cost impacts aren’t uniform across the world, either – they’re most dramatic in temperate areas.
“Tropical regions, especially those in the rich part of the world, have developed mechanisms to attenuate the impacts of extreme disasters,” said Francesca Chiaromonte, professor of statistics and Penn State. “Similar efforts may, in fact, be needed in areas that we have traditionally considered ‘safer.’”
There was some good news in the study, however. Aside from extreme temperature events, mortality is on a downward trend, perhaps because of lower vulnerabilities, improved early warning systems and evacuation systems, and more effective relief efforts.
The main takeaway of the study: those dealing in disaster management should expect to face increasing economic losses, and develop adaptation measures in both tropical and temperate regions.