The Environment

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YINYANG

Cost of Extreme Weather

Global warming is quickly changing weather patterns and causing increasingly extreme weather events globally. Hurricanes, tornadoes, and heavy flooding rains continue to cause havoc in the USA. While some Americans have a paranoid fear of terrorism, extreme weather events cause more costly damage, more often than any terrorist could imagine. Pacific hurricanes (aka cyclones) create increasing damage and death in the Pacific Islands and the coastal areas of Asia and Australia. Pacific cyclones caused large waves, heavy rain, flooding and high winds. Storm surges; cause damage to coastal communities and 90% of tropical cyclone deaths. Over the past two centuries, tropical cyclones have been responsible for the deaths of about 1.9 million people worldwide. Large areas of standing water caused by flooding lead to infection, as well as contributing to mosquito-borne illnesses. When ocean water floods the land, salts are left behind. Increased salinity levels in surface water makes it undrinkable and increased salt in water and soils is toxic to plants.

Hurricane Andrew destroyed over 28,000 homes in August 1992. Hurricanes Jeanne, Ivan, Frances and Charley in 2004 destroyed 27,500 housing units. The Southern US was attacked by 17 major storms during the 2005 hurricane season. Hurricane Katrina did extensive damage in August 2005 to the Gulf coast of the US. Early damage costs; were estimated at $150 billion, the worst natural disaster in U.S. history. Hurricane Rita soon followed on Sept 24 and became the most intense hurricane in the Gulf of Mexico but caused less damage, because it made landfall in less populated areas -- no consolation to the people in Texas and Louisiana who suffered a direct hit. Hurricane Sandy in October 2012 damaged a wide swath of the east coast and became the second-costliest hurricane in United States history. Estimates as of 2015 assessed damage cost at $75 billion. At least 233 people were killed along the path of the storm in eight countries.

The 2017 Atlantic hurricane season was the most expensive ever. In August 2017 Hurricane Harvey came ashore in Texas and Louisiana causing massive wind and flood damage. Houston was severely damaged. Harvey was followed by Hurricane Irma, Jose and Maria that caused expensive damage to the northern Caribbean Islands, especially Puerto Rico. Irma ravaged Florida. Early estimates of the direct cost of damage rose as high as 300 billion USD.

Forest Fires are increasing every year with increasing costs and environmental degradation.

Insurance companies are either increasing rates and refusing coverage for properties at risk. Hurricane Andrew caused 16.5 billion dollars in insured losses, bankrupting some smaller insurance companies. The UN panel on climate change has estimated that windstorm damage increased from $500 million in the 60's to over $11 billion in the 90's and the annual bill in the 21st century will be hundreds of billions of dollars per year. Before 1987, storms had never caused insured losses exceeding $1 billion.

Canada’s insurance industry is calling on all levels of government to improve climate-change preparedness, after a record-breaking year of damage caused by natural disasters. The Insurance Bureau of Canada says $4.9 billion in insurable damage was caused by natural disasters such as wildfires, floods and ice storms across the country in 2016. It’s the most ever in a single year. Damage costs have increased steadily since the 1980s, says the IBC.
They are expected to keep growing.“The record damage reported in 2016 is part of an upward trend that shows no signs of stopping,” said IBC Don Forgeron in a written statement.

“That is why Canada’s . . . insurance industry is calling on governments across the country to come together and implement expansive climate policies that will better prepare Canadians and their communities for when disasters strike. A paradigm shift has to occur from the provincial, municipal and federal levels, so that we can all work together to mitigate or prevent (disaster damage) from occurring .

The wildfires that devastated Fort McMurray, Alta. in May 2016, did about $3.7 billion in insurable damage. The year also saw severe rain and flooding in Atlantic Canada and Windsor, Ont., and its surrounding areas. Dave Phillips, senior climatologist at Environment Canada, said extreme weather events, such as rainstorms, are becoming more frequent and more intense and are lasting longer. Weather records are being smashed as they never have before. “
(Peter Goffin. Natural disasters, insurers report. At $4.9 billion, 2016 broke record for damage Record set for insurable damage caused by natural disasters such as wildfires, floods and ice storms, Insurance Bureau of Canada says. Toronto Star Jan 9 2017.)

Political action should swift and definitive, but of course, it is not. Politicians are short-term administrators who tend to be inexperienced and poorly informed. In all fairness to politicians, some of them began their careers with high hopes of improving the world, but discovered as they matured in politics that they could only court the favor of those with vested interests, power, money and influence. The realist might say that the politician can only do what is political expedient and this usually means what is in his or her best interest in the next two to four years. The task of leading fellow Homo Sapiens from a self-destructive path requires an intelligent consensus and leadership from compassionate superheroes who think in terms of centuries, even millennia.

 
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