Distributional Impacts of Climate Change and Disasters

Distributional Impacts of Climate Change and Disasters

Concepts and Cases

New Horizons in Environmental Economics series

Edited by Matthias Ruth and María E. Ibarrarán

Climate change tends to increase the frequency and intensity of weather-related disasters, which puts many people at risk. Economic, social and environmental impacts further increase vulnerability to disasters and tend to set back development, destroy livelihoods, and increase disparity nationally and worldwide. This book addresses the differential vulnerability of people and places, introducing concepts and methods for analysis and illustrating the impact on local, regional, national, and global scales.

Chapter 3: Climate Change and Natural Disasters: Economic and Distributional Impacts

María E. Ibarrarán and Matthias Ruth

Subjects: development studies, development studies, economics and finance, environmental economics, regional economics, valuation, environment, disasters, environmental economics, valuation, urban and regional studies, regional economics


María E. Ibarrarán and Matthias Ruth INTRODUCTION Every year, a large number of potentially damaging natural events take place around the world – notably, there are windstorms, floods, droughts, cold spells, heatwaves, landslides and earthquakes.1 Recently, however, there has been an increase in the frequency and intensity of these climatological events. It is estimated that this increase is related to global climate change (Easterling et al. 2000; IPCC 2001) and that the near future will see an increase in the devastating effects of such weather events. Simultaneous with these natural occurrences, it is expected that population growth and unsustainable economic growth will put ever larger numbers of people and their assets at risk, while reducing environmental buffering capacities such as appropriate vegetation cover on steep slopes, intact wetlands in coastal zones, or coral reefs. Potentially damaging natural events occur all over the planet fairly randomly, and need not cause harm or destruction unless certain conditions hold. Natural events become disasters depending on their strength, the location where they hit, and the vulnerability of local ecosystems, populations, infrastructures and economic activities (Rasmussen 2004). Even though natural disasters affect both developing and industrialized countries at roughly the same rate, the extent to which they affect a given population – and the way that population copes with it – is what makes these two sets of countries different. Usually richer countries suffer less death from disasters than developing countries because they have resources and institutions available to mitigate disasters and to adapt to their...

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