Guest post by Indur M. Goklany
A few days ago I saw a report about a paper in Nature Climate Change on future economic damages from tropical cyclones (or hurricanes, as we Americans call them) by Robert Mendelsohn, Kerry Emanuel and others. Robert is an old acquaintance, excellent economist and, not least, a very courageous guy—courageous because he is one of the few academics willing to consider publicly that moderate global warming may be beneficial. [Bob is an exception to the rule that academic freedom seems to be largely wasted on academics so many of whom seem unable to resist peer pressure and prefer conformity over questioning politically correct “settled science” even if that betrays their lack of understanding of science and the scientific process.] I contacted Robert, and within a few minutes received a copy of the paper, The impact of climate change on global tropical cyclone damage (paywalled)—did I mention that he is also a gentleman!
The abstract states:
One potential impact from greenhouse-gas emissions is increasing damage from extreme events. Here, we quantify how climate change may affect tropical cyclone damage. We find that future increases in income are likely to double tropical cyclone damage even without climate change. Climate change is predicted to increase the frequency of high-intensity storms in selected ocean basins depending on the climate model. Climate change doubles economic damage, but the result depends on the parameters of the damage function. Almost all of the tropical cyclone damage from climate change tends to be concentrated in North America, East Asia and the Caribbean–Central American region. This paper provides a framework to combine atmospheric science and economics, but some effects are not yet modelled, including sea-level rise and adaptation.
The accompanying press release from the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies, where Robert is professor, titled, Tropical Cyclones to Cause Greater Damage. This indicates that:
- Tropical cyclones today cause $26 billion in global damages, which is 0.04% of gross world product. [COMMENT: The press release erroneously has this as 4%. No matter.]
- By 2100, because of higher population and economic growth, global damages will double to $56 billion by 2100 if the present climate remains stable.
- Climate change is predicted to add another $53 billion of damages. The damage caused by climate change is equal to 0.01 percent of GDP in 2100.”
UPI picked this up, and ran this brief story (shown in its entirety) under the headline Rise in damage from cyclones forecast :
NEW HAVEN, Conn., Feb. 1 (UPI) — Tropical cyclones will cause $109 billion in damages by 2100 because of vulnerability from population and economic growth. U.S. scientists say.
Researchers at Yale University say greater vulnerability to cyclones is expected to increase global tropical damage to more than double the current yearly average.
More intense storms will become more frequent with climate change, researchers said.
“The biggest storms cause most of the damage,” Robert Mendelsohn, the lead economist on the Yale project, said. “With the present climate, almost 93 percent of tropical cyclone damage is caused by only 10 percent of the storms.
“Warming will increase the frequency of these high-intensity storms at least in the North Pacific and North Atlantic Ocean basins, causing most of the increase in damage.”
The study’s estimates are based on a future global population of 9 billion and an annual increase of approximately 3 percent in gross world product until 2100, the researchers said.
“More people making a lot more income will put more capital in harm’s way,” Mendelsohn said in a release Wednesday.
What the abstract and the PR release did not emphasize, and the UPI missed totally is that with or without any climate change the global damages from the present to 2100 will decline, from 0.04% of global GDP to 0.02% of GDP!
The paper also tells us that if future global economic product increases by 20% (from $550 trillion to $660 trillion) in 2100, then cyclone/hurricane damages will increase by 7% (from $109 billion to $117 billion, I assume, rather than from $53 billion to $57 billion — the paper is not clear about which base should be used here). Regardless of which base should be used, greater economic growth would more than make up for losses from cyclone damages (by a factor of over 14,000-to-1).