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The economics of natural disasters : concepts and methods

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  • Hallegatte, Stephane
  • Przyluski, Valentin

Abstract

Large-scale disasters regularly affect societies over the globe, causing large destruction and damage. After each of these events, media, insurance companies, and international institu-tions publish numerous assessments of the"cost of the disaster."However these assessments are based on different methodologies and approaches, and they often reach different results. Besides methodological differences, these discrepancies are due to the multi-dimensionality in disaster impacts and their large redistributive effects, which make it unclear what is included in the estimates. But most importantly, the purpose of these assessments is rarely specified, although different purposes correspond to different perimeters of analysis and different definitions of what a cost is. To clarify this situation, this paper proposes a definition of the cost of a disaster, and emphasizes the most important mechanisms that explain and determine this cost. It does so by first explaining why the direct economic cost, that is, the value of what has been damaged or destroyed by the disaster, is not a sufficient indicator of disaster seriousness and why estimating indirect losses is crucial to assess the consequences on welfare. The paper describes the main indirect consequences of a disaster and the following reconstruction phase, and discusses the economic mechanisms at play. It proposes a review of available methodologies to assess indirect economic consequences, illustrated with examples from the literature. Finally, it highlights the need for a better understanding of the economics of natural disasters and suggests a few promising areas for research on this topic.

Suggested Citation

  • Hallegatte, Stephane & Przyluski, Valentin, 2010. "The economics of natural disasters : concepts and methods," Policy Research Working Paper Series 5507, The World Bank.
  • Handle: RePEc:wbk:wbrwps:5507
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Gaddis, Erica Brown & Miles, Brian & Morse, Stephanie & Lewis, Debby, 2007. "Full-cost accounting of coastal disasters in the United States: Implications for planning and preparedness," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 63(2-3), pages 307-318, August.
    2. Dercon, Stefan, 2004. "Growth and shocks: evidence from rural Ethiopia," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 74(2), pages 309-329, August.
    3. Stéphane Hallegatte & Nicola Ranger & Olivier Mestre & Patrice Dumas & Jan Corfee-Morlot & Celine Herweijer & Robert Wood, 2011. "Assessing climate change impacts, sea level rise and storm surge risk in port cities: a case study on Copenhagen," Climatic Change, Springer, vol. 104(1), pages 113-137, January.
    4. Eduardo Cavallo & Ilan Noy, 2009. "The Economics of Natural Disasters: A Survey," Research Department Publications 4649, Inter-American Development Bank, Research Department.
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    Keywords

    Natural Disasters; Disaster Management; Economic Theory&Research; Hazard Risk Management; Climate Change Economics;
    All these keywords.

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