December 12, 2011

This Quarter's Economic Impact from Global Warming

The other day a friend and I went to Office Depot to pick up an external Seagate hard disk to use for her backups. When we got there, the only disks available were 1TB or greater - much more expensive than she was willing to pay right now and the sales guy didn't know when they would get more of the smaller disks in stock. That's because Seagate manufactures their hard disks in Thailand and their plants were decimated during torrential flooding that affected 9.8 million people and destroyed 25% of the Thai rice harvest.

According to Dr. Jeff Masters in November, the expense from the mega-flood was about approximately $9.8 billion or almost 4% of the GDP of Thailand.

Today Intel created a major market drop when it reported that it would take a $1 billion loss this quarter because of the Thailand floods. And Toyota also lowered their profit forecasts because of the floods by $1.5 billion. Just last week the insurance industry estimated damages of around $10 billion but now with the stories from Intel and Toyota seems to be too small.

The main point to take away is that the overall costs of the flooding affected not just Thailand but an important part of our current global economy which is already under a great deal of stress.

These floods were the worst in Thailand for more than 70 years. Over 600 people died. So were they due to global warming? According to climate scientists, global warming made the disaster more likely, just like too many cheeseburgers and too much smoking leads to increased risk of heart attacks.

Scientists know that the increasing load of greenhouse gases we're pumping into the atmosphere doesn't "cause" extreme weather. But it does raise the odds, just as a diet of triple bacon cheeseburgers raises the odds of heart disease.

The floods that have been threatening to inundate Bangkok, Thailand, for nearly a week now are a perfect example. Since last summer, torrential rains have been pounding the Thai highlands, swelling the country's rivers, including the Chao Phraya, which flows through the capital. Many people have fled for drier ground, fearful that the city's dikes might not hold back the water - especially over the weekend, as the virtual tsunami from the north tried to empty into the Gulf of Thailand just as unusually high tides were pushing up the river. "It seems like we're fighting against the forces of nature," Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra told the New York Times last week....But climate change is an additional risk factor. Scientists have shown that torrential rains have gotten heavier in recent years, in large part because of human-caused global warming. This year's Southeast Asian monsoon may or may not have the fingerprints of climate change all over it, but in general, the trend toward heavier rains is likely to continue. Last weekend's high tide doesn't have anything to do with rising sea level; it was caused by an unusual alignment of Earth, moon and sun. But as climate change does raise sea levels over the coming century - by an average of 3 feet by 2100, according to the current best estimate - rain-swollen rivers will have a harder and harder time emptying quickly into the ocean.

No wonder Americans are starting to realize that climate change deniers are peddling junk because the signs of global warming are becoming too visible and too expensive to ignore any long.

See also: How bad is the hard disk shortage? which predicts that drive prices are going up and won't be coming back down anytime soon.

Our challenge is to force the politicians to do something to address the problem of global warming before it costs us an arm and a leg or too many more lives.

Posted by Mary at December 12, 2011 08:50 PM | Environment | Technorati links |

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Hoping that our politicians will do the right thing is like hoping God will solve our problems.

It is clear that our politicians get into office only to enrich themselves. Have you read about the Insider Trading that even some democrats have indulged in?

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