The Atlantic hurricane season officially begins next week. For the seventh consecutive year, federal forecasters to predict it will be more active than normal – whatever “normal” means in the age of climate change. And as these storms become more frequent and destructive, their economic toll also increases.
It’s unclear exactly why the number of storms per season is on the rise, according to Ben Strauss, CEO and chief scientist of nonprofit Climate Central.
“But what we do know is that climate change is making storms stronger,” Strauss said.
These stronger storms bring more destruction. “They are dumping more water. They escalate faster, so there’s less time to prepare for the approach,” Strauss said.
And land and homes that are in the path of those storms are rising in value, said Jamie Kruse, an economics professor at East Carolina University. Just look at the rising value of real estate over the past two years.
“Even the exact same house is worth more now, and it may be underinsured,” Kruse said.
Rebuilding after a disaster also costs more, said Mike Walden, an economist at North Carolina State University.
“Construction costs are higher, it’s harder to get construction materials. I mean, everyone is aware of that and the supply chain issues,” Walden said.
This means that mitigation measures, such as making homes and infrastructure more resistant to storms and tightening building codes, also come with higher costs. Costs that are always worth it, according to David Merrick, director of the emergency management program at Florida State University.
“The more money we spend on mitigation, the more money it will save us in response,” Merrick said. But someone – landlords, businesses or local governments – has to foot the bill.
“And they’re paying that for something that they might not be able to see and understand on a nice day like today,” he said. This is especially true in places that have never been in the path of a major storm before.
But as the Atlantic Ocean warms and storms get worse, Merrick said not spending on mitigation is becoming more of a gamble.
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