The impact of climate change on global tropical cyclone damage

Abstract

One potential impact from greenhouse-gas emissions is increasing damage from extreme events. Here, we quantify how climate change may affect tropical cyclone damage. We find that future increases in income are likely to double tropical cyclone damage even without climate change. Climate change is predicted to increase the frequency of high-intensity storms in selected ocean basins depending on the climate model. Climate change doubles economic damage, but the result depends on the parameters of the damage function. Almost all of the tropical cyclone damage from climate change tends to be concentrated in North America, East Asia and the Caribbean–Central American region. This paper provides a framework to combine atmospheric science and economics, but some effects are not yet modelled, including sea-level rise and adaptation.

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Figure 1: Storm tracks and minimum pressure for a sample of synthetic storms.
Figure 2: The impact of climate change on tropical storm power by ocean and climate models.
Figure 3: Present and future baseline tropical cyclone damage by region.
Figure 4: Climate change impacts on tropical cyclone damage by region in 2100.
Figure 5: Climate change impacts on tropical cyclone damage divided by GDP by region in 2100.
Figure 6: Present and future return period by damage in GFDL climate scenarios.

Change history

  • 08 February 2012

    In the version of this Article originally published online, the authors declared no competing financial interests. Although this remains the case, a clarification now appears in all versions.

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Acknowledgements

This paper was commissioned and financially supported by the Joint World Bank–United Nations project on the Economics of Disaster Risk Reduction and Recovery. The findings, interpretations and conclusions expressed in this paper are entirely those of the authors. We are grateful to W. Nordhaus, A. Sanghi, M. Toman and seminar participants at the World Bank, Yale University, and the United Nations for valuable comments and suggestions.

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Contributions

R.M. and K.E. conceived the integrated assessment model and the climate-change experiment, K.E. carried out the atmospheric science component, S.C. and L.B. carried out the economics component and R.M. and K.E. co-wrote the paper.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Robert Mendelsohn.

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Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests. However, in the interest of transparency we confirm that the tracks used for this paper were produced by WindRiskTech, LLC (www.windrisktech.com), which Kerry Emanuel founded with business partners in 2005. This paper was written once the results had been analysed for the World Bank, which bought these tracks from the firm. The firm's profit resulting from the sale of these tracks was not dependent on the results being formally published in a research journal. Dr Emanuel is also on the boards of two property and casualty companies: Homesite and Bunker Hill, and also on the board of the AlphaCat Fund, an investment fund dealing with re-insurance transactions. In all three cases, Dr Emanuel receives fixed fees but owns no stocks or shares. Dr Emanuel does not stand to make any personal financial gain through these directorships as a consequence of the reported findings.

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Mendelsohn, R., Emanuel, K., Chonabayashi, S. et al. The impact of climate change on global tropical cyclone damage. Nature Clim Change 2, 205–209 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1038/nclimate1357

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