Global Travel Media » Blog Archive » Economic Impacts of Bushfires: What California’s Wildfires may Foreshadow in Australia

Home » Headline News » Currently Reading:

Economic Impacts of Bushfires: What California’s Wildfires may Foreshadow in Australia

January 17, 2020 Headline News No Comments Email Email


As Australia’s bushfires rage on, questions arise on the long-term impacts on human health, biodiversity and the economy. Lessons learned from the recovery from recent wildfires in California offer some pointers as what might happen when the bushfires finally subside. While immediate economic impacts include emergency relief bills, business interruptions, costly loss of goods and reduction in tourism, the long-term economic impacts vary based on municipalities’ financial resources, economic make-up and preparedness.

Real Estate Markets

Over the past three years wildfires have razed thousands of buildings across California, destroying multiple communities. The impacts on real estate markets varies depending on the share of properties destroyed in a local community, as well as insurance penetration. When Santa Rose saw [20%] of its territory touched by the fires in 2017, the city experienced an increase in property prices and rents following the fire: displaced households needed new dwellings, construction workers and emergency relief officials needed housing and amenities, and local businesses found new clientele. Although an estimated 3,300 people left Sonoma County after the 2017 fires, in Santa Rosa, CA, rebuilding has occurred more rapidly than expected. The areas affected by the fires had relatively high insurance rates, and families were able to pay for the reconstruction of their houses. Irreplaceable personal items were lost, but the city experienced a mini-economic boom due to construction in the area.

 

Business Impacts

In California, the biggest impact was on the utility sector. As power lines and electric equipment were found to have started the wildfires, the liability ultimately resulted in  Pacific Gas & Electric’s (PG&E) bankruptcy, coined “the first climate-change bankruptcy.” In Australia fires are most often started by dry lightning so utilities are not so exposed to liability risk, but are exposed to significant costs from disruptions and repairs associated with wildfires.

Municipal Resources

Residents’ decisions to stay in a recovering area is largely affected by whether insurance companies choose to provide coverage or pull out after wildfires. This in turn, is a key factor in the viability of long-term development and the strength of cities’ tax bases. Faced with potential population loss, local governments may attempt to provide public insurance if private insurers leave a city or region, such as the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) in the U.S. However, as seen with the NFIP, this mechanism can lead to unsustainable development and a moral hazard, encouraging unwise economic decisions by shifting risks from the individual buying property, to the government and therefore the public.  The desire to help an area rebuild needs to be balanced against  a forward-looking perspective on the new realities of climate change. As temperatures increase, droughts become more common and wildfire conditions become more frequent, climate change will make some areas no longer suitable for human settlement.

Hidden Costs: Health Impacts

Wildfires’ impacts on human health can be long-lasting and widespread. While Paradise, CA burned down, in 2018 San Francisco, about 200 miles away, had the worst air quality in the world. This led to school closures and business disruptions during the event, but its impacts are still being felt. Three to five months after Sonoma County’s 2017 fires there was a 20% increase in emergency room visits for breathing challenges, as well as a 20% increase in visits for cardiac problems three months after those fires. While populations are advised to stay inside to shelter from smoke, many evacuation victims do not have that option.

Preparing for a New Normal

Australia and California used to share firefighting resources since they didn’t need them at the same time, and firefighting contractors built their businesses around staggered fire seasons. Now, Australia and California fight fires concurrently, business models must shift and municipalities must reallocate resources. While it’s evident that extreme wildfires are a new reality in California, Australia, and elsewhere, adapting to this increased risk is complicated and challenging.

Written by: By Emilie Mazzacurati



Comment on this Article:







Time limit is exhausted. Please reload CAPTCHA.

Platinium Partnership

ADVERTISEMENTS

Elite Partnership Sponsors

ADVERTISEMENTS

Premier Partnership Sponsors

ADVERTISEMENTS

Official Media Event Partner

ADVERTISEMENTS

Global travel media endorses the following travel Publication

ADVERTISEMENTS

GLOBAL TRAVEL MEDIA VIDEOS

ADVERTISEMENTS

%d bloggers like this:
%d bloggers like this:
sitemap