Delivering Cyclone Risk Information for a Future Climate in the Pacific
Authors / CoAuthors
Tropical cyclones are the most common disaster in the Pacific, and among the most destructive. In December 2012, Cyclone Evan caused over US$200 million damage in Samoa, nearly 30 percent of Samoan GDP. Niue suffered losses of US$85 million following Cyclone Heta in 2004-over five times its GDP. As recently as January 2014, Cyclone Ian caused significant damage throughout Tonga, resulting in the first payout of the Pacific Catastrophe Risk Insurance Pilot system operated by the World Bank (2014).
According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), intense tropical cyclone activity in the Pacific basin will likely increase in the future (IPCC 2013). But such general statements about global tropical cyclone activity provide little guidance on how impacts may change locally or even regionally, and thus do little to help communities and nations prepare appropriate adaptation measures.
This study assesses climate change in terms of impact on the human population and its assets, expressed in terms of financial loss. An impact focus is relevant to adaptation because changes in hazard do not necessarily result in a proportional change in impact. This is because impacts are driven by exposure and vulnerability as well as by hazard. For example, a small shift in hazard in a densely populated area may have more significant consequences than a bigger change in an unpopulated area. Analogously, a dense population that has a low vulnerability to a particular hazard might not need to adapt significantly to a change in hazard. Even in regions with high tropical cyclone risk and correspondingly stringent building codes, such as the state of Florida, a modest 1 percent increase in wind speeds can result in a 5 percent to 10 percent increase in loss to residential property. Quantifying the change impact thus supports evidence-based decision making on adaptation to future climate risk.