With the Northern Hemisphere now in the midst of hurricane, typhoon and cyclone season, many businesses have emergency plans in place, plywood to board the windows, and generators at the ready. But a new study from economists Solomon M. Hsiang of Berkeley and Amir S. Jina of Columbia, “The Causal Effect of Environmental Catastrophe on Long-Run Economic Growth,” found it is far more difficult for the overall economy to weather the storm.
As Rebecca J. Rosen explained in The Atlantic, economists previously had four competing hypotheses about the impact of destructive storms: “Such a disaster might permanently set a country back; it might temporarily derail growth only to get back on course down the road; it might lead to even greater growth, as new investment pours in to replace destroyed assets; or, possibly, it might get even better, not only stimulating growth but also ridding the country of whatever outdated infrastructure was holding it back.”
After looking at 6,712 cyclones, typhoons, and hurricanes that occurred between 1950 and 2008 and the subsequent economic outcomes of the countries they struck, Hsiang and Jina were able to decisively strike down most of these hypotheses. “There is no creative destruction,” Jina said. “These disasters hit us and [their effects] sit around for a couple of decades.”