Tag Archives: typhoons

China’s Fast And Furious Rising Seas

High billows strike on the seashore of a park in Weihai, east China's Shandong Province, June 26, 2011. Strong winds and heavy rains are forecast to hit China's eastern coast as tropical storm Meari is moving northwest from the southern Yellow Sea waters, according to a statement issued by the nation's meteorological authority Sunday. (Xinhua/Yu Qibo)
The annual report from the State Oceanic Administration on China’s rising sea levels brings no surprises and no cheer in equal measure. Sea levels continue to rise faster than the global average. By the middle of this century, they are forecast to be 145mm-200mm higher. That doesn’t sound much but is sufficient to flood 87,000 square kilometers (34,000 square miles) of lowlands, or about 10% of coastal provinces’ land area. More than 1,300 seaside townships, 2,000 kilometers of rail lines and 22,000 kilometers of roads are at risk of being underwater. The Bohai Sea and the adjacent southwestern side of the Yellow Sea. and the waters around Hainan are rising fastest.

As we’ve noted before, urbanization, industrialization and overuse of groundwater is exacerbating the problem. Large cities are sinking because the water table below is sinking. too. All in all, coastal regions are left more vulnerable to the ravages of wind and rain. Typhoons affected more than 500 million people in southern China last year and caused more than 3.3. billion yuan ($520 million) of damage. In addition, river deltas such as the Yangtze’s and the Pearl’s will become more vulnerable to surges, salt tides and the salination of farmland and coastal forests.

Short of dealing with climate change, there are few hard defences against rising sea levels. Soft natural defences and restricting development in the most vulnerable areas is, as the SOE recommends, the most prudent course.

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Insuring Against Earthquakes, Floods And Typhoons

China is underinsured. At least when it comes to catastrophes. A new working paper from the World Bank proposes the government creates an insurance fund to cover the part of the population that most suffers from floods, typhoons and earthquakes.

The Bank reckons the direct property damage from these natural disasters to be typically $15 billion a year. Add in the costs of business disruption and disaster relief and the number jumps significantly. Add in further a devastating ‘quake such as last year’s one in Wenchuan and the cost tops $100 billion.

Yet only 5% of property in China is insured, mainly commercial and industrial premises. The Bank says only one in 100 private dwellings is insured. Given the magnitude of the potential losses, and the domestic insurance industry’s limited capacity to write business against them, the Bank proposes a national catastrophe insurance fund, the China Catasrophe Insurance Pool, to cover all private property and all small and medium sized enterprises against initially earthquakes in return for a mandatory premium.

The pool would act as a national aggregator of the risk but its management and insurance operations would be outsourced to the private sector. This is not an original idea in as much as similar insurance schemes exist in places such as New Zealand and California.

 

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