The consequences and costs of climate risks

Huricane Ida, United States Gulf Coast, August 2021

Climate risks are increasing in the United States and in many other parts of the world. Yet, some areas that are particular climate “hot spots”–increasingly prone to excessive heat or drought or powerful hurricanes or floods or sea level rise or destructive wildfires, etc. and sometimes more than just one risk–are currently seeing more population growth and development than areas with lesser risks.

Why is this happening? And what will this mean?

The economic and social damage from extreme weather (the cost of a changing climate) has increased substantially, billions and billions of dollars each year besides the cost of consequences that don’t have a price–lives. Even in richer nations, can we afford to keep paying for the damages and, at the same time, prepare our infrastructure for the weather of the present and future?

Featured article (this article have been added to the Science Primary Literature Database):

*Iglesias, V., Braswell, A. E., Rossi, M. W., Joseph, M. B., McShane, C., Cattau, M., . . . Travis, W. R. (2021). Risky development: Increasing exposure to natural hazards in the United States. Earth’s Future, 9(7), 2020EF001795. [PDF]

Losses from natural hazards are escalating dramatically, with more properties and critical infrastructure affected each year. Although the magnitude, intensity, and/or frequency of certain hazards has increased, development contributes to this unsustainable trend, as disasters emerge when natural disturbances meet vulnerable assets and populations. To diagnose development patterns leading to increased exposure in the conterminous United States (CONUS), we identified earthquake, flood, hurricane, tornado, and wildfire hazard hotspots, and overlaid them with land use information from the Historical Settlement Data Compilation data set. Our results show that 57% of structures (homes, schools, hospitals, office buildings, etc.) are located in hazard hotspots, which represent only a third of CONUS area, and ∼1.5 million buildings lie in hotspots for two or more hazards. These critical levels of exposure are the legacy of decades of sustained growth and point to our inability, lack of knowledge, or unwillingness to limit development in hazardous zones. Development in these areas is still growing more rapidly than the baseline rates for the nation, portending larger future losses even if the effects of climate change are not considered.”

See also:

Extreme weather and a changing climate

Extreme weather and climate change: the connections and impacts (see the most current version of this bibliography at https://sciencebibliographies.strategian.com/extreme-weather-and-climate-change-the-connections-and-impacts/)

Questions? Please let me know (engelk@grinnell.edu).

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