We are faced with an ever-increasing stream of alarming climate news, with pictures of extreme weather and destruction delivered every hour. We still need to pay attention – clearly the warnings about Hurricane Ian need to be heard.

But this does not mean that hurricanes hit American shores more often, as is often implied or stated. Instead, the news flow is largely driven by the CNN effect—many more cameras are now filming every disaster and replaying it 24/7. To make good policy, we need to look at long-term data.

Much of the best data comes from the United States. And despite what you may hear over and over again, Atlantic hurricanes are not becoming more frequent. In fact, the frequency of hurricanes making landfall in the continental United States has decreased slightly since 1900.

Airplanes and satellites have dramatically increased the number of storms that scientists can observe at sea today. This is why the frequency of landfalling hurricanes, reliably documented as far back as 1900, is a better statistic than the total number of Atlantic hurricanes.

And there are no more powerful hurricanes either. The frequency of Category 3 and above hurricanes making landfall since 1900 is also slightly down. Although you hear a lot about hurricanes getting stronger, a study in the journal Nature suggests that the increase is “not part of a century-long increase, but a recovery from a deep low in the 1960s to 1980s.” .

Although the data for the rest of the world is less extensive, we see the same picture. The best reconstruction from 1950 to 2020 shows no significant increase in the frequency of all or major hurricanes.

Images of hurricane devastation abound, but remember that development and population along coasts, especially in the United States, has increased dramatically over the past century. Many more people live in the path of these devastating storms compared to even a few decades ago. In 1940, there were fewer than 600,000 homes in Florida—today, that number is 17 times greater, at more than 10 million.

But better infrastructure, backed by improved technology and wealth, does more to protect lives and property than reduce carbon emissions.

Globally today, hurricanes cause damage at the rate of 0.04 percent of global gross domestic product. And even with a recent assessment by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that the proportion of major hurricanes will increase, the destruction caused by these storms is still projected by a study in Nature to drop to 0.02 percent of global GDP in 2100. the global economy becomes richer by making infrastructure more sustainable. Even if we could eliminate climate change entirely (which we certainly can’t), it would only slightly accelerate this decline to 0.01 percent in 2100.

The best long-term data on hurricanes hitting the United States show a decline, even for major hurricanes. And with or without emissions reductions, the world becomes more resilient to hurricanes.

Björn Lomborg is president of the Copenhagen Consensus and visiting fellow at the Hoover Institution. His latest book is False Alarm – How Climate Change Panic is Costing Us Trillions, Hurting the Poor and Failing to Fix the Planet. He wrote about it for InsideSources.com.


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