This past year, Iowa has seen its fair share of floods, drought, and tornadoes. Damaged homes, infrastructure, and ruined crops make extreme weather a costly problem, but it’s one that climate scientists warn is becoming more and more common.
Iowa State University economist Dave Swenson is scheduled to speak today at a symposium in Des Moines about how to anticipate the economic impacts of severe weather. “The difference between the itemization of all of the losses and what the public is able compensate, the gap between that is truly a loss. But, when you have a disaster and an organized response to a disaster, you have the cleanup,” Swenson says. That cleanup involves the flow of federal money to compensate some losses, and also a bit of economic activity as residents and businesses restore their households and inventories.
Swenson says damage from extreme weather events can be minimized by building residential areas in places not prone to weather damage, or designing infrastructure to withstand extreme conditions. But, Swenson says it’s difficult to find public support for such changes. “You’re going to get two types of resistance; one is ‘we’ve already done things this way or always lived in this part of town,’ and the other is just cost. There’s a huge resistance to public cost that is preventative in nature,” Swenson says.
Today’s symposium, Adapting to Weather Extremes: the Economic Impact in Iowa, is taking place at Hy-Vee Hall in Des Moines. Swenson made his comments on the Iowa Public Radio program River to River.