Climate Change, Cyclones, and Their Economic Impact on India

July 12, 2020
Science and Innovation

Over the past four decades, tropical cyclones all around the world have increased in number and intensity. A tropical cyclone is defined as a rotating system of clouds and thunderstorms over tropical waters where winds exceed 39 miles per hour (NOAA). Tropical cyclones are known as the most severe storms in the tropics. Since 1979, tropical cyclones with winds of over 115 miles per hour have become 15% more likely. Each decade, the chances of a major hurricane have rapidly increased in the Southern Indian Ocean and have increased by almost 50% in the North Atlantic (Carbon Brief, 2020). The surge in cyclone activity is caused by rising ocean surface temperatures. The increase in sea temperatures is caused by the increase in atmospheric heat from greenhouse gas emissions, which is then absorbed by the ocean. India is the worst-affected region in the world, and cyclones make up about a third of the country’s natural disasters.

Two devastating cyclones have hit India in 2020, and this trend of increased cyclone activity could be crippling for the Indian economy. At the beginning of May, Cyclone Fani hit the eastern coast of India, with winds of up to 125 mph.This cyclone forced the evacuation of about 800,000 people. More than 1 million people were evacuated from Orissa. Cyclone Fani caused $8.1 billion in damages and killed 89 people in eastern India and Bangladesh (Washington Post, 2019). On May 18th, another cyclone, Cyclone Amphan, struck India. 2.5 million people were evacuated, but tragically 84 people were killed during the storm. The cyclone had wind speeds reaching 160 mph and caused over $13 billion of damage (NASA, 2020). This is the most expensive cyclone since 2008, devastating the region.

Most cyclones in India start in the Bay of Bengal and eventually hit the east coast of the country. Cyclones cause severe damage to infrastructure and India’s coastline. The high winds produced during cyclones can damage communication systems, energy systems, and buildings. Flooding, heavy rainfall, and sea level rise can cause erosion and lead to landslides. These extreme amounts of water can also lead to human and animal fatalities and can destroy soil that eliminates the future potential to grow crops.

Cyclones also have a major impact on India and its economy. 12% of India’s central government revenue and 2% of India’s Gross Domestic Profit are lost as a result of natural disasters (National Cyclone Risk Mitigation Project). Measures in place to prevent the destruction caused by cyclones includes resistant structures, shelters, adequate drainage systems, and coastline management. An important step to limit the number of future cyclones is by reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Fossil fuels are burned for electricity, heat, and transportation. Alternative methods of energy such as geothermal energy, wind energy, solar power, and hydroelectric must become commonplace. A transition to cleaner energy can limit global warming and prevent devastating natural catastrophes such as these cyclones.

Claire Vanderdonck

Claire Vanderdonck is a rising junior at Tulane University working towards her Bachelor of Science in Management with a major in Marketing. Claire has lived near the ocean her whole life, which has facilitated her extensive knowledge of marine life and passion for ocean conservation. Claire has a breadth of experience in social media marketing and is excited to use these platforms to educate global citizens on how they can make a positive impact in global conservation efforts.

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