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Caroline Irby/British Red Cross/PA Wire
Cyclone Idai in Mozambique.jpg
Caroline Irby/British Red Cross/PA Wire
World News

Christian Aid highlights most destructive climate disasters of 2019

by Tola Mbakwe

Christian Aid has drawn attention to the extreme economic damage caused by extreme weather in 2019.

In its new report, Counting the Cost 2019: a year of climate breakdown, the charity highlights 15 of the most destructive droughts, floods, fires, typhoons and cyclones of this year, each of which caused damage of over $1 billion (£760 million).

Christian Aid said seven of the events cost more than $10 billion each and the figures are likely to be underestimates because in some cases they include only insured losses and do not take into account the costs of lost productivity and uninsured losses.

All of these billion-dollar disasters are linked with human-caused climate change.

The most financially costly disasters identified by the report were wildfires in California, which caused 25 billion US dollars (£19 billion) in damage, followed by Typhoon Hagibis in Japan, which cost 15 billion US dollars (£11 billion).

Floods in the American Midwest in March cost 12.5 billion US dollars (£9.5 billion) and China was hit by flooding between June and August that cost 12 billion US dollars (£9 billion).

The events with the greatest loss of life were floods in northern India which killed 1,900 and Cyclone Idai, which killed 1,300, Christian Aid said.

Cyclone Fani in India and Bangladesh in May displaced 3.4 million people, the report said.

The UK did not escape the weather extremes, with Storm Eberhard hitting the country along with Belgium and the Netherlands in early March, before moving east to affect Germany, Poland, the Czech Republic and Ukraine.

The storm caused damage across Europe costing one billion to 1.7 billion US dollars (£760 million to £1.3 billion). Analysis suggests severe wind storms will be increasingly likely to hit Europe as temperatures rise, and in the UK insurance claims from these kind of storms could increase by 50 per cent in some parts of the country.

Report co-author, Dr Kat Kramer, Christian Aid’s global climate Lead, said: “2020 is going to be a huge year for how the world responds to the growing climate crisis.  We have the biggest summit since the Paris agreement was signed five years ago, taking place in Glasgow, where 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.”

Christian Aid said although the report focuses on the financial cost of climate change-driven extreme weather events, in many developing countries the human cost of climate change to vulnerable communities is even higher than the financial cost.

"There are many slow-onset droughts, weather change and sea encroachment that are progressively and devastatingly impacting millions of people worldwide," the charity said.

Professor Michael Mann, director of the Earth System Science Centre at Pennsylvania State University, said: "If anything, 2019 saw even more profound extreme weather events around the world than last year, including wildfires from the Amazon through to the Arctic, devastating out-of-season, simultaneous wildfires in California and Australia, winter heatwaves and devastating superstorms.

"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."

Here are the 15 climate-related extreme weather events identified in the report:

  • January: Argentina and Uruguay, floods - 2.5 billion US dollars, five killed;
  • January-February: Australia, floods - 1.9 billion US dollars, three killed;
  • March: Europe, Storm Eberhard - 1-1.7 billion US dollars, four killed;
  • March: Southern Africa, Cyclone Idai - two billion US dollars, 1,300 killed;
  • March-June: Midwest and South US, floods - 12.5 billion US dollars, three killed;
  • March-April: Iran, floods - 8.3 billion US dollars, 78 killed;
  • May: India and Bangladesh, Cyclone Fani - 8.1 billion US dollars, 89 killed;
  • June-August: China, floods - 12 billion US dollars, 300 killed;
  • June-October: North India, floods - 10 billion US dollars, 1,900 killed;
  • August: China, Typhoon Lekima - 10 billion US dollars, 101 killed;
  • September-October: Japan, Typhoon Faxai (5-9 billion US dollars, three killed) and Hagibis (15 billion US dollars, 98 killed);
  • September: North America, Hurricane Dorian - 11.4 billion US dollars, 673 killed;
  • September: Spain, floods - 2.4 billion US dollars, seven killed;
  • September: Texas, US, Tropical Storm Imelda, eight billion US dollars, five killed.
  • October-November: California, US, fires - 25 billion US dollars, three killed.
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