Hurricane Damage and Global Warming

Hurricane Damage and Global Warming

How Bad Could It Get and What Can We Do About It Today?
June 03, 2009

 

Full study available in pdf

Climate experts and policy
makers have debated the existence of a potential link between global
warming and increased hurricane activity since the record-setting 2005
Atlantic hurricane season. While claims that hurricanes are already
stronger due to climate change are highly controversial, research
demonstrates that increases in societal vulnerability to hurricanes—the
number of persons and amount of property in coastal areas—goes a long
way toward explaining the increases in hurricane losses over time.

This
paper focuses on hurricane damage projections, reviews them in detail,
and critiques the projections. It details how existing public policies
have helped increase hurricane losses. In its final section, the paper
recommends specific policies to reduce populations’ vulnerability to
hurricanes.

Existing public policies—including insurance
regulation, government-subsidized flood insurance, improper mitigation,
and faulty building code enforcement—contribute to unnecessarily risky
and inefficient development along coastal areas by shifting the cost of
hurricane damage ultimately onto third parties—mainly taxpayers. Poor
policies lead to excessive vulnerability to hurricanes and would
exacerbate the cost of any increase in storm activity, whether due to
climate change or any other factor. Insurance subsidies and mitigation
may not be normally considered part of the climate change debate, but
within that debate reform of these policies now will constitute a “no
regrets” strategy. In other words, reforms will yield benefits in all
circumstances—especially if adverse climate change does occur.