Effective Disasters: Disasters as a Driver of International Climate Policy Change
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At the recent UNFCCC COP23 meetings, many diplomats and political leaders at all levels would start their proposals for policy goals and action on climate change by citing a disaster their country or region had experiences, or one that their neighbors or allies had suffered. While this evidence is anecdotal, disasters are a critical factor in how countries view the effect of climate change. However, the extent to which policy changes are driven by natural disasters is unclear. Using disaster data from the EM-DAT and policy data from the Grantham Institute, we applied a hot spot analysis to identify spatial patterns of countries and their neighbors that are more impacted by major disasters than would be expected. We then compared these hot spots to countries with new climate policies to determine if there is a correlation between high disaster impact over a 5-year period and any subsequent policy. The resulting correlation between high disaster time periods and subsequent policy change was found to be present for 48 policies but the pattern overall in almost every case was not statistically significant or simply not present. We then focus on the 2013 flood of the Danube, Elbe, and Rhine rivers and analyze the policy changes of all nine countries (Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia) directly impacted by this disaster. The impact of the flood on each country was calculated based on Lifeyears, a non-monetary measure of disaster damage (Noy, 2015). We found that Germany, Hungary, Austria, and Slovakia experienced greater damage than their neighbors, and as a direct result implemented the most relevant disaster policies.
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