Climate-Change Misdirection

Posted by on Jan 25, 2013 at 7:39 am

As for one of the favorites of alarmism, hurricanes in recent years don’t indicate that storms are getting worse. Measured by total energy (Accumulated Cyclone Energy), hurricane activity is at a low not encountered since the 1970s. The U.S. is currently experiencing the longest absence of severe landfall hurricanes in over a century—the last Category 3 or stronger storm was Wilma, more than seven years ago.

While it is likely that we will see somewhat stronger (but fewer) storms as climate change continues, a March 2012 Nature study shows that the global damage cost from hurricanes will go to 0.02% of gross domestic product annually in 2100 from 0.04% today—a drop of 50%, despite global warming.

This does not mean that climate change isn’t an issue. It means that exaggerating the threat concentrates resources in the wrong areas. Consider hurricanes (though similar points hold for wildfire and drought). If the aim is to reduce storm damage, then first focus on resilience—better building codes and better enforcement of those codes. Ending subsidies for hurricane insurance to discourage building in vulnerable zones would also help, as would investing in better infrastructure (from stronger levees to higher-capacity sewers).

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