#TBT: In Advance of Hurricane Season


This is not an opine on the consideration of climate change, but perhaps it should be. In the midst of Harvey, Irma, Jose, and maybe more, I'd like to focus on the measurable (and the immeasurable) economic impacts that these storms are having on the US.

In a nutshell, hurricanes cost billions of dollars. In particular, they result in property damage, infrastructure destruction, lost wages, lost revenues, lost trade revenues, and human lives...to name a few. While the economic impacts (just in terms of property damage) from hurricane Harvey will likely fall somewhere between $40-$50 billion, and are only a fraction of the $160 billion in damage caused by hurricane Katrina back in 2005, there are still 2 more massive hurricanes on the way and it's pretty early in the season. Hurricane Sandy in 2012, for instance, cost about $70 billion in damage, and came about in late October-early November. We still have a couple months to go...

Between 1980 and 2017, there have been 212 weather-related events that have caused at least a billion dollars in damage. In total, all of these storms have cost $1.2 trillion with the most expensive storms occurring within the past fifteen years.

I mentioned back in early June when President Trump made the decision to reject that Paris Agreement, I noted that it would cost the US an average of $98 billion per year to contribute to working on collective solutions to deal with impacts such as these. As it is, the US will far surpass that annual spending on fixing damage caused by hurricanes and wildfires, and we are no closer to a solution on how to deal with them in the future. If a hurricane like Sandy were to hit New York City again, the city would be screwed...again. This scientific and economic article from FiveThirtyEight.com has some excellent stats on hurricanes that have happened in recent years, and this is the source of the charts below.

So what would we as a people rather do? Keep praying and paying for all that damage? Or do we want to start allocating money to scientific solutions that will help limit the impact of natural disasters on cities and poor communities?

Regardless of your stance on global warming/climate change, severe weather is a reality that will impact us for many years into the future, and finding real, physical solutions to preventing damage and saving lives should be a priority.

Investing in science does not only mean investing in studies on climate change, but it also means helping coastal communities develop and build stronger infrastructure to be able to withstand multiple category 5 hurricanes, in the (likely) event that they keep happening in the future. And if you believe "well, Florida always gets hurricanes," I say, "so, what?" Improved infrastructure is something that coastal communities definitely need, especially since many insurance companies don't even want to take the risk to cover properties in coastal cities.

Although we can't stop natural disasters right now, we know that they are inevitable, and we have the manpower and means to do something about it now. Politicians need to stop the alleged expansion of coal mining and pipelines and shift that focus to something that's far more important and can save lives over many years.

Think people. Think.

This article was originally published on GradMoney on September 12, 2017.

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