Damage estimates for hurricanes like Dorian don’t capture the full cost of climate change-fueled disasters

Read the full story at The Conversation.

Scientists say climate change is causing powerful hurricanes like Dorian to increasingly stall over coastal areas, which leads to heavy flooding. Officials in the Bahamas feared “unprecedented” devastation after Dorian hovered over the islands for two days, pummeling it with rain.

But beyond more intense and slow-moving hurricanes, the warming climate has been blamed for causing a sharp uptick in all types of extreme weather events across the country, from explosive wildfires in California to severe flooding across the U.S. and extensive drought in the Southwest.

Late last year, the media blared that these and other consequences of climate change could cut U.S. GDP by 10% by the end of the century – “more than double the losses of the Great Depression,” as The New York Times intoned. That figure was drawn from a single figure in the U.S. government’s Fourth National Climate Assessment. (Disclosure: I reviewed that report and was the vice chair on the third one, released in 2014.)

If that sounds scary, I have good news and bad news. The good news is that that figure was drawn incorrectly from a significant misreading of the report – which actually offered a range of a loss of GDP from as low as 6% to as high as 14% by 2090.

The bad news, however, is that a more meaningful assessment of the costs of climate change – using basic economic principles I teach to undergrads – is a hell of a lot scarier.

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