Thursday, November 1, 2012

Even super huge clouds have a silver lining

Superstorm Sandy has wreaked havoc on more people in the USA than live in England.

My thoughts are with those people, strangers and friends from the Carribean through USA and into Canada who have lost loved ones, homes businesses and communities.

As I write this the media and still showing dramatic images, lots of sad stories - but also lots of gorgeous 'human spirit' bits that we always see after natural disasters.

It must be very hard to see any positive outcomes from such natural fury but I am going to try.

Climate Change
There is no way anyone can say that Sandy was a direct consequence of human caused climate change.  But there is plenty of evidence that the frequency and severity of such storms is expected to increase due to climate change.

As New Scientist reported...

Such devastation could increase in the future: climatologists say that slow-moving storms like Sandy will become more common as climate change increases the occurrence of "blocking patterns" that slow down weather systems.
"We expect that hurricanes may move more slowly in the future than they do now," says Kerry Emanuel at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Slow-moving hurricanes dump all their rain onto a smaller area, causing severe flooding, with coastal regions taking the brunt. "This shifts rainfall towards the coasts, and increases it at the same time," he says.
Even though there are still people who don't 'believe in climate change', most will begin to hedge their bets.  Really, the whole world needs the US to 'believe in climate change' if we are going to ever take serious global action.

Tragic climate events - even if not directly connected - can bring awareness of the awesome powers, and having them not just on our doorstep, but in our home is a true slap in the face.  

US high school teacher, Greg Craven, got it right with his fabulous website, book What's the worst that could happen? and great video "The Most Terrifying Video You'll Ever See".  He takes a logical approach to the disagreement about climate change.

As you can see from his little sketch below he is advocating action whether you believe in climate change it or not.  He assumes action on climate change (scenario A) costs money.
I think that Sandy will help push more people who are sitting on the fence into deciding that the risk of a longer depression is better than the risk of a global catastrophe.

Here is his logic:

For all of us, wherever we live, the US economy is important.  Sandy has caused billions of dollars of damage in the USA.  But Americans are resilient, tough and community spirited.  Despite economic woes, donations are flying in from everywhere and the rebuilding cost will huge - but a great stimulus package.  New jobs will be created, business come into being and old businesses rebuilt.  I have no idea if this will be a net positive to the economy.  I am no expert on this kind of Keynesian thinking - I am not even sure it is Keynesian; but there will definitely by a great 'pulling together' spirit as we saw in Australia after our recent floods and fires.

Whatever happens, this storm will hit the insurance companies.  Whilst they will put up premiums, there is only so much of that they can do there.  However, it is the impact of this storm on insurance companies that could have the biggest and most important impact on the future of our planet.

The Insurers and Climate Change
Insurance companies 'believe in climate change' - they see it as a serious threat.  Back in 2007, the boss of the Reinsurance Association of America, Frank Nutter gave evidence at a select committee on energy independence and global warming "The insurance industry's financial interest is inter-dependent with climate and weather."

Andrew Castaldi, head of the catastrophe risk unit for the Swiss Re America Corp, said "We believe unequivocally that climate change presents an increasing risk to the world economy and social welfare."

Let's hope that since common sense and science have not created the action we need on climate change, this tragic catastrophe and the economic imperatives of the insurance companies will help push through some change that would position the United States as world leader on action on climate change. 

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