Warm air is the lifeblood of hurricanes. So with continually rising temperatures, there’s an understandable risk that hurricanes will become more fearsome. A new study has looked into the increasing likelihood of particularly brutal hurricanes and their financial costs.
According to the research, hurricanes account for over half of weather and meteorological damage. Hurricane damage in the United States is estimated to have reached $400 billion between 1980 and 2014. By the end of the 21st century, that price tag is only going to rise as the population increases, more development takes place, and anthropogenic climate change sets in.
Using the latest models of weather prediction, population surveys, and economic studies, the researchers from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research estimate that if climate change continues at its current rate, the US GDP costs of one hurricane could triple by the end of the 21st century. The annual cost to the US gross domestic product from hurricanes could rise by a factor of eight.
"We used information about historical hurricane tracks for the Eastern United States to identify the connection between the affected population, average per capital income and associated damages," researcher Dr Katja Frieler said in a press release. "Finally, we applied this relationship to thousands of potential future hurricane tracks that could affect the Eastern United States until 2100 under different levels of global warming."
"Historical trends in GDP and historical hurricane tracks. Shading over land indicates the percent change of gridded inflation-adjusted GDP from 1963 to 2012. Shading over water shows the absolute number of observed storms with at least hurricane strength for the same period." Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research
Interestingly, the study also takes into account the forecasted rises in gross domestic product, the future spread of populations, and models of climate change. On a somewhat depressing note, however, they predict that our attempts to adapt to this extreme weather won’t be enough.
“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. But what if damages grow faster than our economy, what if climate impacts hit faster than we are able to adapt?” said Anders Levermann, climate scientist at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research.
“We find that this is the case with hurricane damages in the United States, the hope in economic growth as an answer to climate change is ill-founded. While adaptation to unavoidable impacts of global warming is important, climate mitigation remains of vital relevance to prevent or damp still avoidable consequences,” he added.