Hurricane season is at its peak, but that hasn’t made the dramatic pictures of Hurricane Harvey and Irma any easier to digest. Hurricane Harvey was the first devastating cyclone to reach the USA at the end of August, slamming into Texas and the Gulf of Mexico. Hot on its heels is the current category-four storm, Irma, raging across Florida, Miami and parts of the Caribbean.
In tandem with the recent hurricanes coming in from the Atlantic Ocean, monsoon rain has stuck northern parts of India, Bangladesh and Nepal, displacing tens of millions, with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) estimating that at least 1,200 have subsequently lost their lives.
Meteorological experts have calculated that almost a week's worth of rainfall normally experienced during the summer season fell across parts of Bangladesh in the space of a few hours.
These recent events are examples of freak weather patterns and extreme storms impacting various regions across the globe. All have been catastrophic for the populations affected, but what have been the wider economical and societal affects?
Hurricane Harvey, USA
Harvey was the first major hurricane to make landfall in the USA, since Wilma in 2005. What hasn’t gone unnoticed is the fact that the storm struck at the heart of America's oil and gas industry, at one stage knocking a third of US production offline, forcing the closure of multiple refineries around the Gulf Coast and disrupting a number of major fuel pipelines.
Petrol prices increased in anticipation of the storm, with shortages reported at gas stations in Texas, and as far away as the UK.
Goldman Sachs, the multinational finance company, estimates that the hurricane is anticipated to become one of the costliest disasters in postwar US history. Sachs has reported that up to one percentage point of third-quarter GDP will be deducted from US economic growth as a result of the storm.
Monsoon floods, South East Asia
Villagers have described the recent rains across parts of Northern India, Bangladesh and Nepal as the ‘worst in living memory’.
UNICEF has estimated 31 million people have been affected by the floods, with a further eight million affected in Bangladesh and over one million in Nepal. Aid agencies have also stated that out of the 1,200 plus who have lost their lives, 30 to 40 per cent are children.
Such flooding is catastrophic for rural areas around the world. Whilst these areas are used to seasonal flooding, the impact of recent events is unprecedented, with cattle, homes, crops and food supplies wiped out in many cases. What’s more, reconstruction efforts invariably take longer in developing countries than in wealthier economies.
Hurricane Irma, USA
Making landfall on the first weekend of September, Irma has steadily caused destruction across the Caribbean, Florida and Miami. At the time of writing, over 68 people had lost their lives.
In Florida and the Gulf Coast, where winds reached over 135 mph, coastal waters rose up to 10 to 15 feet above normally dry land, inundating homes, businesses and roads. Less than one week after the storm hit, authorities in Florida reported a $250 million spend against various recovery efforts.
Elsewhere, several Caribbean islands have been devastated, with insurance experts already estimating the cost at more than US$10bn (AED 36bn). The island of St Martin had more than 60 per cent of its homes ripped apart, with no electricity, gas or drinking water.
Climate change to blame
Scientists and climate experts have widely attributed the severity of the recent storms to climate change, arguing that the warming of both the ocean’s surface water and the world’s atmosphere are exacerbating extreme weather.
Climate change and resource scarcity will be issues in focus at Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week 2018. In January, we’ll be inviting world leaders, global experts and business leaders to further examine climate change and its impact on world communities, as well as the practical steps that can be taken to mitigate the effects of our warming planet.