Christian Aid yesterday identified 15 of the most destructive droughts, floods, fires, typhoons and cyclones, each of which cost over $1billion, with seven costing more than $10billion each. Since the charity’s report was written Australia has seen its record average temperature smashed twice in two days this month, posting a new high of 107.4F (41.9C) as bushfires continue to rage. The extreme weather events increase the pressure on world leaders at next year’s climate summit in Glasgow to meet the 2015 Paris Agreement’s programme for cuts to greenhouse gas emissions.
The last round of talks in Madrid earlier this month petered out amid claims that major polluters, such as Australia, were blocking progress.
The most-expensive disaster were wildfires in California in October and November, which caused $25billion in damage, followed by Typhoon Hagibis in Japan ($15billion) and the March floods in theAmerican Midwest ($12.5billion) and China ($12billion) in July.
But the report, Counting The Cost 2019: A Year Of Climate Breakdown, says these are likely to be underestimates. Some totals include only insured losses and do not take into account lost productivity and uninsured losses.
The events with the greatest loss of life were floods in May and June in northern India which killed 1,900 and March’s Cyclone Idai in Africa which killed 1,300 in Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Malawi.
The report said: “All of these billion-dollar disasters are linked with human-caused climate change.
“In some cases scientific studies have shown that climate change made the particular event more likely or stronger, for example with Cyclone Idai in Africa and floods in India and the US.
“In other cases, the event was the result of shifts in weather patterns – like higher temperatures and reduced rainfall that made fires more likely or warmer water temperatures that supercharged tropical storms – that are themselves consequences of climate change.”
Report co-author Dr Kat Kramer of Christian Aid said: “2020 is going to be a huge year for how the world responds to the growing climate crisis.”
He said in Glasgow “countries must commit to further cut their emissions in line with the 1.5C temperature limit, and boost funding for poor countries suffering from the kind of impacts seen in this report.
“Last year emissions continued to rise, so it’s essential that nations prepare these new and enhanced pledges for action to the Paris agreement as soon as possible.
“That will ensure the world responds urgently to the warnings of scientists, as well as the demands from school children around the globe who are horrified at the kind of world they are being forced to inherit.”
August saw Hurricane Dorian cause destruction along North America’s Eastern seaboard from the Bahamas to Canada, killing 673 people. Dr Adelle Thomas, of the University of the Bahamas and Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change expert, said Dorian “was unfortunately not an isolated event”.
“It’s vital that countries step up and deliver stronger action plans and much increased ambition before the COP26 summit in Glasgow in November,” she said Professor Michael Mann, climate expert at Pennsylvania State University, said: “If anything 2019 saw even more profound extreme weather events around the world than last year.”
He added: “With each day now we are seemingly reminded of the cost of climate inaction in the form of ever-threatening climate change spiked weather extremes.” Dr Doreen Stabinsky, professor of global environmental politics at the College of the Atlantic, called the report “an important warning” about the human and economic costs of climate change.
“It is no wonder youth around the world are taking to the streets to demand that we write a different story towards a better future – a story where we take urgent and immediate actions now to stop the emissions that are leading to these devastating disasters,” she said.