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Think Sandy was Bad? New Study Shows Seven-Fold Increase in Hurricanes

J. Mijin Cha

Months after super storm Sandy, families are still waiting for permanent housing. Only a quarter of the families registered with NYC’s hotel sheltering program will find permanent housing with the next three months. Between New York and New Jersey, damage from the storm is estimated to cost over $71 billion. The general consensus is that climate change is intensifying storms resulting in the type of damage seen with Sandy. And, new data suggests that the East Coast should brace itself for many more damaging storms. 

A new study that matched East Coast storm surge records with global temperatures over the last 90 years finds that the strongest hurricanes are likely to become more common—with only half the level of warming currently projected. For every one degree Celsius of global warming, there could be up to seven times as many Katrina-sized hurricanes. Although the link between hurricanes and climate change is still not fully understood, the study found that global temperatures were one of the best predictors for hurricane activity.

While Sandy and Katrina had different characteristics, they were equally destructive. Considering the damage caused to the East Coast from back-to-back big storms with Irene and Sandy, a seven-fold increase in storms would not only completely disrupt the region’s economy, it would start to reshape its population and economic activity. As we’re written, there is literally no aspect of our economy that won’t be impacted by climate change. Not to mention the population changes that will occur because people don’t want to live in storm centers and the reduced property values from continual storm damage.

There are no shortages of warnings on the damage that will be caused by climate change. There is a substantial shortage of action. A good first step would be a carbon tax. Another good step would be to move away from extreme energy and begin meaningfully investing in renewable energy. We should also substantially decrease our energy consumption. Otherwise, those of us that live on the East Coast should start thinking about relocation.