23 September 2009

Replication of Pielke (2007)

In 2007 I published a paper on the relative roles of climate change and societal change in future hurricane losses:

Pielke, Jr., R. A., 2007. Future Economic Damage from Tropical Cyclones: Sensitivities to Societal and Climate Changes, Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, Vol. 365, No. 1860, pp. 1-13.

Last month a group of German authors, including several associated with Munich Re, published a discussion paper online that replicated this analysis, confirming its results. The paper, by Silvio Schmidt, Claudia Kemfert and Eberhard Faust adopts a similar approach to that which I used, which was simply to assume that tropical cyclones will become more intense in the future, and then compare the expected damage from that intensity increase with the effects of projected societal change.

As I found in Pielke (2007), they also found that societal factors are overwhelmingly dominant in coming years, even assuming a direct and significant relationship of greenhouse gas emissions and tropical cyclone intensity and under a range of socio-economic scenarios. They find that about 90% of the increase in losses to 2015 and 96% to 2050 will be due to societal factors even when assuming a greenhouse gas effect on tropical cyclones. In other words, assuming a direct greenhouse gas-tropical cyclone link, reducing greenhouse gas emissions such that they have no effect addresses a maximum of only 4% of the increased losses in 2050, under the assumptions of the study. Obviously therefore, damage from tropical cyclones is primarily an issue of adaptation to climate, not mitigation.

Interestingly, they find in their literature review that the only studies that quantitatively compare the expected costs of human-caused climate change on tropical cyclones with the effects of societal change are the two studies that I have conducted. Schmidt et al. 2009 is thus the third. While I do have some quibbles (e.g., their study focuses on the U.S. and mine is global), I am happy to report that their results are entirely consistent with my own. Schmidt and colleagues have replicated other work that I have done on hurricanes and I welcome this confirmatory work.

You can see their paper here in PDF. Here is the citation:

Silvio Schmidt, Claudia Kemfert and Eberhard Faust, 2009. Simulation of Economic Losses from Tropical Cyclones in the Years 2015 and 2050 – The Effects of Anthropogenic Climate Change and Growing Wealth, DIW Berlin, German Institute for Economic Research, August.