Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Income and Coping with Extreme Weather Shocks: The Case of Heavy Snowfalls and Plows

I was surprised to read that Japan's Western region has suffered many deaths due to recent heavy snow storms.  The details are posted here. The article states the following;  "Western Japan has been battered by one snowstorm after another since the beginning of the year, overwhelming cash-strapped cities struggling to keep up with cleanup efforts.  In the Niigata Prefecture, officials said nearly half of their 30 cities had run out of funds set aside snow removal. Further north in the Aomori Prefecture, the government had already applied for additional funds from Tokyo, after draining its budget."

The article goes on to say that "Residents, frustrated by the slow response, have taken it upon themselves to clean up the winter mess, resulting in deadly consequences. Nearly all the storm-related deaths have been a direct result of snow removal."

So, the deaths are taking place because guys are having heart attacks moving heavy snow with a shovel.  This is horrible but it highlights how urban income protects us from shocks.  Don't forget John Henry and the Machine.  We substitute capital (snow removal trucks) for labor (guys with shovels) and this is progress but it takes money to do this.   Richer nations are better able to adapt to these shocks and this creates an imperative to encourage economic growth.