Economic “Normalization” of Disaster Losses 1998-2020: A Literature Review and Assessment

Please email me for a pre-publication copy of this new paper …

Roger Pielke Jr.
University of Colorado Boulder
Environmental Hazards (in press, 2021)

Nowadays, in the aftermath of every weather disaster quickly follow estimates of economic loss. Quick blame for those losses, or some part of them, is often placed on claims of more frequent or intense weather events. However, understanding what role changes in climate may have played in increasing weather-related disaster losses is challenging because, in addition to changes in climate, society also undergoes dramatic change. Increasing development and wealth influence exposure and vulnerability to loss – typically increasing exposure while reducing vulnerability. In recent decades a scientific literature has emerged that seeks to adjust historical economic damage from extreme weather to remove the influences of societal change from economic loss time series in order to estimate what losses past extreme events would cause under present-day societal conditions. In regions with broad exposure to loss, an unbiased economic normalization will exhibit trends consistent with corresponding climatological trends in related extreme events, providing an independent check on normalization results. This paper reviews 54 normalization studies published 1998 to 2020 and finds little evidence to support claims that any part of the overall increase in global economic losses documented on climate time scales can be attributed to human-caused changes in climate, reinforcing conclusions of recent assessments of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

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