92nd American Meteorological Society Annual Meeting (January 22-26, 2012)

Tuesday, 24 January 2012: 11:30 AM
Reconciliation of Trends in Global and Regional Datasets of Economic Losses from Weather Events
Room 243 (New Orleans Convention Center )
Shalini Mohleji, Univ. of Colorado, Boulder, CO; and R. A. Pielke Jr.

This study investigates why disaster-caused economic losses are increasing. Currently there is an apparent disconnect between (a) claims, based on global disaster loss data, that losses are increasing due to anthropogenic climate change and (b) studies focused on regional losses which find no evidence of such causality. In institutions such as the insurance arena, experts often claim that global disaster-caused economic losses are increasing because anthropogenic climate change is causing natural disasters to become more severe. However, disaster literature includes a number of studies on regional disaster-caused economic losses that find increasing regional losses can be explained entirely by socioeconomic factors.

This study reconciles the apparent disconnect by conducting an independent assessment of climate change and global disaster severity through regional analyses derived by disaggregating global loss data. We disaggregate global losses into their regional components and quantify the percentage of the global increase in disaster losses attributable to each region's losses. Then we associate this disaggregation to the findings from the existing literature which conclude that each region's losses can be explained by socioeconomic factors. We conclude that losses from North American, Asian, European, and Australian storms and floods contribute to 97% of the increase in global losses; due to socioeconomic factors in their region such as increasing wealth, population growth, and increasing development in vulnerable areas. The remaining 3% of the global increase is collectively caused by losses from other natural disasters in Europe as well as South American storms. The disaggregation is able to fully account for 100% of the global increase in losses. Existing studies in the disaster literature cover the regions contributing to 97% of the global increase but studies have not currently assessed the regions and disasters contributing to the remaining 3%.

By quantifying the global increase and linking the regional percentages to regional socioeconomic factors documented in the literature, this study finds no additional factors beyond those that can be explained by socioeconomic change to explain 97% of the increase in global losses. Thus, the apparent disconnect is reconciled, and there is no disconnect at all.

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