Climate change: Estimating damages from Hurricane Sandy attributable to climate change
May 19, 2021
Without a rise in sea levels as a result of anthropogenic climate change, Hurricane Sandy may have resulted in around US$8 billion dollars less in damages, according to a study in Nature Communications. The paper also suggests that the resulting floods would have affected 71,000 fewer people.
Rising sea levels are known to amplify the impacts of coastal storms through storm surges and flooding that increase risks to coastal populations. Although sea-level rise is accepted to be a consequence of a warming climate, determining the additional consequences directly attributable to anthropogenic climate change in the aftermath of natural hazards is challenging.
Benjamin Strauss and colleagues reassess the impacts of Hurricane Sandy, which struck the East Coast of the United States in 2012, to determine the extent of damages attributable to anthropogenic sea-level rise. The authors use a dynamic flood model that simulates water levels and damage as they would have occurred across a suite of scenarios where sea level rise was less severe. In reality, New York, New Jersey and Connecticut reported more than US$62 billion in damages, nearly all of which was due to flooding. They compare this real value to estimated economic damages in their scenarios with less anthropogenic sea-level rise, and find a difference of approximately US$8 billion. Tracking the extent of floods in the simulations versus reality, they also find that anthropogenic sea-level rise exposed between 40,000 and 131,000 more people and 36,000 more housing units to floods.
The authors cannot account for all of the myriad climate change effects other than sea-level rise that could have impacted damages after Sandy, but they assert that this approach provides a baseline estimate of the cost of our changing planet.
After the embargo ends, the full paper will be available at: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-021-22838-1
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