Deteriorating Transportation System Susceptible to More Frequent Weather Disasters

More roads are being impacted by increasingly frequent 100-year storms. Image – Steve Earley, The Virginian Pilot via AP.

Bloomberg Businessweek published “It’s Global Warming, Stupid” as Hurricane Sandy was bearing down on the east coast. It has generated nearly 1000 comments so far.  Here is the “money quote” relating to transportation:

“The U.S. has allowed transportation and other infrastructure to grow obsolete and deteriorate, which poses a threat not just to public safety but also to the nation’s economic health. With once-in-a-century floods now occurring every few years, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said the country’s biggest city will need to consider building surge protectors and somehow waterproofing its enormous subway system. “It’s not prudent to sit here and say it’s not going to happen again,” Cuomo said. “I believe it is going to happen again.”

And here is an interesting quote from a German insurance company.

“On Oct. 17 the giant German reinsurance company Munich Re issued a prescient report titled Severe Weather in North America. Globally, the rate of extreme weather events is rising, and “nowhere in the world is the rising number of natural catastrophes more evident than in North America.” From 1980 through 2011, weather disasters caused losses totaling $1.06 trillion. Munich Re found “a nearly quintupled number of weather-related loss events in North America for the past three decades.” By contrast, there was “an increase factor of 4 in Asia, 2.5 in Africa, 2 in Europe, and 1.5 in South America.” Human-caused climate change “is believed to contribute to this trend,” the report said, “though it influences various perils in different ways.”

Global warming “particularly affects formation of heat waves, droughts, intense precipitation events, and in the long run most probably also tropical cyclone intensity,” Munich Re said. This July was the hottest month recorded in the U.S. since record-keeping began in 1895, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The U.S. Drought Monitor reported that two-thirds of the continental U.S. suffered drought conditions this summer.

Granted, Munich Re wants to sell more reinsurance (backup policies purchased by other insurance companies), so maybe it has a selfish reason to stir anxiety. But it has no obvious motive for fingering global warming vs. other causes. “If the first effects of climate change are already perceptible,” said Peter Hoppe, the company’s chief of geo-risks research, “all alerts and measures against it have become even more pressing.”