Extreme Weather Cost Billions in Damage in 2021, Study Finds

Extreme weather events around the planet severely impact people and ecosystems. Now, researchers have calculated the economic costs.

By Costas Vasilopoulos
Jan. 4, 2022 12:13 UTC

A new study from the Christian Aid char­ity has found that 10 major nat­ural cat­a­stro­phes that hit the planet in 2021 each had a finan­cial impact of tens of bil­lions of Euros.

The study cal­cu­lated the dam­age caused by extreme weather events, mostly in devel­oped coun­tries, where data from insur­ance claims are read­ily avail­able to allow for the eco­nomic impact to be cal­cu­lated. Each of the events ana­lyzed had esti­mated dam­ages exceed­ing €1.32 bil­lion.

It was bit­terly dis­ap­point­ing to leave (COP26) with­out a fund set up to actu­ally help peo­ple who are suf­fer­ing per­ma­nent losses from cli­mate change.- Nushrat Chowdhury, cli­mate jus­tice adviser, Christian Aid

Hurricane Ida, which claimed 95 human lives and swept most of the east­ern United States, impact­ing cities from New Orleans to New York last August, is iden­ti­fied in the study as the most finan­cially dev­as­tat­ing event of 2021, with a total cost of around €57 bil­lion.

July’s flood­ing in sev­eral cen­tral European coun­tries was the sec­ond-largest costly weather event and took a heavy toll on human lives with 240 deaths. According to the report, the eco­nomic cost of the flood­ing totaled €38 bil­lion.

See Also:La Niña Is Back, Bringing Rain and Drought for Second Straight Year

The cold wave that hit France last April and impacted olive trees, vine­yards and other crops is also included in the list of the costli­est dis­as­ters of 2021, hav­ing incurred finan­cial dam­age of €4.94 bil­lion to French farm­ers.

Although extreme weather events were not directly cor­re­lated with cli­mate change in the report, the increas­ingly warm weather of the planet could increase the like­li­hood of severe events, the authors of the report said.

A study by World Weather Attribution con­cluded that cli­mate change made extreme rain­fall events sim­i­lar to those that led to the floods in Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg between 1.2 and nine-times more likely to hap­pen, and that such down­pours in the region are now three to 19-per­cent heav­ier because of human-caused warm­ing,” the authors wrote.

The study also doc­u­mented other extreme weather events of 2021 with a vague eco­nomic impact but a pro­found con­se­quence on peo­ple and ecosys­tems. These included flood­ing in South Sudan, which forced more than 800,000 peo­ple to relo­cate, and the trop­i­cal cyclone Tauktae, which affected more than 200,000 peo­ple in India, Sri Lanka and the Maldives.

That’s a huge human impact,” said Kat Kramer, the lead­ing report author. Obviously, los­ing your home, your liveli­hoods and every­thing, and not hav­ing the resources to rebuild, that is incred­i­bly tough. Whereas at least if you have insur­ance, you have some mech­a­nism for build­ing that back.”

The report called on wealthy coun­tries to dras­ti­cally reduce car­bon diox­ide emis­sions to pre­vent future extreme weather events from becom­ing a real­ity.

Furthermore, the char­ity has sum­moned world lead­ers to cre­ate the means to sup­port peo­ple hit by cli­mate-related events in devel­op­ing coun­tries finan­cially.

Although it was good to see the issue of loss and dam­age become a major issue at COP26, it was bit­terly dis­ap­point­ing to leave with­out a fund set up to actu­ally help peo­ple who are suf­fer­ing per­ma­nent losses from cli­mate change,” said Nushrat Chowdhury, Christian Aid’s cli­mate jus­tice adviser in Bangladesh.

Bringing that fund to life needs to be a global pri­or­ity in 2022,” he con­cluded.


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