Concepts and Cases
Edited by Matthias Ruth and María E. Ibarrarán
Chapter 3: Climate Change and Natural Disasters: Economic and Distributional Impacts
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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