Wednesday, March 14, 2012

AMS Journals Online - Have Disaster Losses Increased Due to Anthropogenic Climate Change?

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The increasing impact of natural disasters over recent decades has been well documented, especially the direct economic losses and losses that were insured. Claims are made by some that climate change has caused more losses, but others assert that increasing exposure due to population and economic growth has been a much more important driver. Ambiguity exists today, because the causal link between climate change and disaster losses has not been addressed in a systematic manner by major scientific assessments. Here, the author presents a review and analysis of recent quantitative studies on past increases in weather disaster losses and the role of anthropogenic climate change. Analyses show that, although economic losses from weather-related hazards have increased, anthropogenic climate change so far did not have a significant impact on losses from natural disasters. The observed loss increase is caused primarily by increasing exposure and value of capital at risk. This finding is of direct importance for studies on impacts from extreme weather and for disaster policy. Studies that project future losses may give a better indication of the potential impact of climate change on disaster losses and needs for adaptation than the analysis of historical losses.

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