Whose Disaster Is It?
With its pink sands and warm water, Bermuda is a great place to visit. It’s also a great place to live. It has the fourth-highest per capita income in the world. But that’s not because of tourism.
It is because of reinsurance, the arcane business of selling insurance to insurance companies. We buy coverage to protect ourselves from really big losses, and the insurance companies do the same — they buy policies from reinsurance companies to defend their bottom lines from disasters much like this year’s hurricanes. Low tax rates attract many of these reinsurance companies to havens such as Bermuda. It’s the big reinsurers, like PartnerRe, Everest Re, Ace and XL, that float much of Bermuda’s economy.
But hurricanes are a huge nightmare for these companies. As Hurricane Harvey showed this year, a single big storm can drown whole neighborhoods and cause tens of billions of dollars in damage. Economists have argued for…
The Mafia That Fights Mother Nature
Natural disasters can sometimes bring out the best in humanity. Whether it’s an earthquake, a tsunami or a volcanic eruption, the unyielding power of the natural world – particularly when it indiscriminately kills people in its path – is incredibly effective at making human disputes and conflicts seem rather pointless and decidedly ephemeral.
Take the Mafia, for example. For the most part, that word has some rather grim connotations. The romanticized image of the Italian mobster has long been eroded by the cold light of day and some rather stunning reinventions of the genre in film and literature. The image currently dancing around in your head, however, betrays the fact that there are many different varieties of mafia or mafia-like organization…
El Niño and La Niña – por que no los dos?! (Actually, that would be very bad)
It would be pretty remarkable if you weren’t somehow affected by the Queensland floods in 2011, the Great Ocean Road Christmas bushfires in 2015, or even the heatwaves leading up to Black Saturday in 2009 that killed 173 people in Victoria.
But have you ever taken a step back to think about what’s really going on with the weather in times like this? We don’t have bushfires and floods all the time, so something was obviously happening to cause such a drastic change in weather.
You’d be correct in saying that something more was at play here. In fact, it’s called ENSO – the El Niño- Southern Oscillation – the changing surface ocean temperature patterns in the Pacific Ocean. When the central and eastern equatorial Pacific is warmer than normal, it is called El Niño, “the little boy” in Spanish; conversely, when it is cooler than normal, it is called La Niña, or “the little girl.”
These two children are responsible for changes in our weather patterns every two to seven…