More than $ 8 billion in damage from Hurricane Sandy along the northeast coast of the United States in 2012 can be blamed exclusively on man-made climate change, according to a study released Tuesday.
Rising sea levels caused by global warming were also responsible for the flooding of 36,000 additional homes, researchers reported in the journal Nature Communications.
The results are the first to determine the dollar value of the super storm devastation attributable solely to climate change, the authors said, adding that the methods developed could be applied more widely to other cyclones and storm surges.
“If we were to calculate the costs of climate change for all flood events, that figure would be huge,” said co-author Philip Orton, associate professor at the Stevens Institute of Technology in New Jersey.
In total, Sandy caused nearly $ 63 billion (€ 51.5 billion) in damage in the tri-state area of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. It raged for more than a week, killing dozens of people in the Caribbean and nearly 150 people in the United States.
“Climate change is already hurting us more than most of us understand,” lead author Ben Strauss, CEO and chief scientist at Climate Central, told AFP.
Usually we don’t do the bookkeeping.
Thousands of people on the way to Hurricane Sandy saw their homes suffer costly and sometimes financially crippling damage solely from global warming.
# photo1 ″ They may not realize it, but they have been victims of climate change, period, ”said Strauss.
The study concludes that every centimeter of sea level rise would have resulted in about $ 1 billion in additional damage.
– ‘Low-end estimate’ –
The oceans have grown by more than 3 cm (1.2 inches) in the decade since Sandy, which means the same storm today – assuming no change in protective infrastructure – would impose a bill repairs exceeding $ 11 billion.
The estimate is conservative, Strauss said, because it only looked at the impact of climate change on sea level rise, not the storm itself.
Rising temperatures have resulted in larger hurricanes, typhoons and cyclones that trap more water, generate higher wind speeds and linger on land longer, previous research has shown.
# photo2 ″ It’s fair to think of our numbers as low-end estimates that only take into account part of the warming effect – and perhaps the smallest part, ”Strauss said.
The study conclusions were based on modeling simulating the effect of various sea levels on the impacts of flooding during the storm.
To make sure they were only measuring the influence of man-made climate change, the researchers removed from the equation the impact of natural land subsidence and part of the rise in the level of the earth. sea which is due to natural processes.
Enlarged globally, damage from rising sea levels could easily reach hundreds of billions of dollars or more over the next several decades.
Previous research by Strauss found that the land that is home to 300 million people could be exposed to annual coastal flooding by 2050, and that the land that is home to 150 million people could be below high tides.
These numbers are roughly the same no matter how quickly humanity is reducing its carbon emissions.
“But they diverge considerably at the end of this century,” Strauss said.
Large reductions in carbon pollution over the next decades could mean 50 million people less exposed to coastal flooding in 2100 compared to a scenario in which emissions continue unabated, he said.
© 2021 AFP