CLIMATEWIRE | Scientists have found the imprint of global warming on Typhoon Hagibis, the monstrous cyclone that swept through Japan in 2019, killing about a hundred people and damaging thousands of homes.
New study – published Wednesday in the journal Climate change – found that the storm is about 67 percent more likely to happen than it would be in a world without climate change. Researchers have also gone a step further and translated the impact of warming into economic spending: of the $ 10 billion in typhoon Hagibis caused as damage, they say about $ 4 billion can be attributed to climate change.
In other words, if global warming had not happened, the storm would have been far less destructive.
“We focused on this particular event because Hagibis was one of the worst storms in Japan’s history,” said lead author Sihan Lee, a senior fellow at Oxford University.
In fact, it was probably even more harmful than the new study suggests. The study considers only the costs associated with insurance losses. It does not include the variety of costs that may be associated with other effects of the storm, including loss of life and well-being.
Research is the latest addition to a popular field of study known as the science of attribution. The area specializes in detecting the impact of climate change on individual meteorological phenomena, such as hurricanes, heat waves, floods and forest fires.
While the science of attribution is a relatively young field – it began only about two decades ago – it has advanced rapidly in recent years. There are hundreds of peer-reviewed attribution studies in the scientific literature today. Scientists can now study almost any type of climate disaster, and they have also dealt with it faster. Surveys that used to take weeks or months can now be conducted in near real time.
And the area is still evolving. Typical attribution studies focus solely on how climate change has affected the likelihood or intensity of a meteorological event. Considering economic costs is a relatively new development – so far only a few studies have done so.
But today’s study of Typhoon Hagibis will not be the last.
Calculation of the “cost of inaction”
A study for 2020 on Hurricane Harvey and separately study for 2020 on droughts and floods in New Zealand, both led by climatologist David Frame, have established a basic methodology for linking weather damage to climate change.
The method essentially examines the effect of warming on the probability of an event occurring, which is already a well-established practice in the science of attribution. It then takes the part of the risk associated with climate change and applies it to the costs associated with this event.
Hurricane Harvey, for example, found that warming is likely to account for about three-quarters of the risk of such a severe event. Researchers then concluded that about three-quarters of Harvey’s estimated $ 90 billion in damage could be due to climate change, or about $ 67 billion.
Harvey’s study focuses mainly on how climate change has affected the legendary storm surge, which was responsible for most of the devastating floods it caused along the Gulf Coast in 2017. 2021 study for Superstorm Sandy, on the other hand, took a slightly different approach.
Much of the devastation caused by Sandy, which hit the northeast in 2012, was caused by a tidal storm – water rushing in from the ocean when a storm hit the shore. Higher sea levels are associated with more destructive tides. So the Sandy study examines the impact of climate-related sea level rise on storm-related floods. He then translated that impact into economic spending, concluding that about $ 8 billion in damage could be blamed on climate change.
Typhoon Hagibis’ new study uses a method similar to Hurricane Harvey. Much of the typhoon damage is due to heavy rainfall.
This is a relatively simple and straightforward method, said study co-author Frederick Otto, a climatologist at Imperial College London and co-chair of the World Weather Attribution research consortium, which specializes in the science of attribution.
However, she said, the district will benefit from more research examining more potential methods linking time-related costs to climate change. As this is still a relatively new type of research, there is much room for development.
“I think it would be really good if we had more people working on it and we had more people coming up with different ways to do it to see how stable those results are, depending on the type of methodologies you choose.” she said.
These types of research could potentially have far-reaching implications beyond their scientific value. Legal experts often suggest that attribution studies in general can be used as evidence in climate lawsuits.
Studies specifically pointing out the impact of climate change on economic costs may have even greater potential to influence litigation and policy in the future. But the area probably needs to mature a little more, Otto said.
Typical attribution studies that do not look at costs have well-established standard methods. These methods have been used in hundreds of studies and have been evaluated by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Adding damage to the mix, on the other hand, is a new frontier.
“I think if you go to court right now, someone could easily punch holes in it,” Otto said. “To be really useful in all the contexts in which you would like to use it, we need more people to work on. [it] and more people are doing it. “
Climate litigation is just one possible arena where these types of research could be useful. They also have great potential to influence public perceptions of climate change and the risks associated with it, Lee suggested.
“I think we still greatly underestimate how much climate change actually costs,” she said.
Storms like Hagibis are likely to become more destructive as the world continues to warm, she said. The same is true of many other types of climate disasters around the world. Reducing emissions and halting global warming can limit the rising costs of these events as quickly as possible.
Studies that directly link the cost of individual meteorological phenomena to climate change could make the problem more tangible to the public, Lee suggested.
“I think that’s really missing in what we need to do, maybe a little faster,” she said. “People think about the cost of mitigation, but never about the cost of inaction.
Reprinted from E&E news courtesy of POLITICO, LLC. Copyright 2022. E&E News provides important news for energy and environmental professionals.