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Not So Natural: Unequal Effects of Public Policies on the Occurrence of Disasters

Albuquerque Sant'Anna, André
Ecological economics 2018 v.152 pp. 273-281
databases, disasters, forests, infrastructure, public policy, rain, sewage, urban areas, Brazil
This paper assesses the effects of public policies on the occurrence of natural disasters related to extreme rainfall. By using a unique and geolocated database on natural disasters in the state of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, I test whether variables related to public policies - e.g. forest cover and urban infrastructure - affect the occurrence of natural disasters, conditional on the existence of extreme rainfall. Results point to a significant role for public policies in order to mitigate effects of extreme weather events. More specifically, results point to an important role for urban infrastructure, as proper sewage and waste collection, and forest cover in reducing the impacts of extreme rainfall. Moreover, I discuss how these heterogeneous effects have distributional consequences and can be linked to the Environmental Justice literature. Finally, this paper reinforces the idea that adaptation policies to disasters are essential in reducing local vulnerabilities and can yield distributional and fiscal benefits.