Extreme weather, driven by human-caused climate change, hit every populated continent in 2019
The entire world is now counting the devastating cost of the climate crisis.
A new report details how extreme weather, driven by human-caused climate change, hit every populated continent in 2019, killing, injuring and displacing millions and causing billions of dollars of economic damage.
Counting the Cost 2019: a year of climate breakdown, published by Christian Aid, identifies 15 of the most destructive droughts, floods, fires, typhoons and cyclones of 2019, each of which caused damage of over $1 billion. Seven of the events cost more than $10bn each.
These figures are likely to be underestimates - in some cases they include only insured losses and do not take into account the costs of lost productivity and uninsured losses.
The issue has been highlighted recently by shocking scenes from Australia where fires have raged out of control.
All of these disasters are linked with human-caused climate change. In some cases scientific studies have shown that this made the event more likely or stronger, for example with Cyclone Idai in Africa and floods in India and the United States.
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.
While 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, and there are many slow-onset droughts, weather change and sea encroachment that are progressively and devastatingly impacting millions of people worldwide.
The most financially costly disasters identified by the report were wildfires in California, which caused $25bn, followed by Typhoon Hagibis in Japan ($15bn) and floods in the American mid-west ($12.5bn) and China ($12bn). The events with the greatest loss of life were floods in Northern India which killed 1,900 and Cyclone Idai which killed 1,300.
Glasgow will take centre stage in the fight against the climate crisis when the city hosts the COP26 summit in November, and experts are warning that 2020 will be a decisive year.
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.”
Sally Foster-Fulton, head of Christian Aid Scotland, added: “In the year that Scotland signed one of the world’s most ambitious climate change acts, this report is a stark reminder about the urgency of climate action.
“In countries such as Mozambique which suffered a great loss of life as well as financial cost when Cyclone Idai hit in March, we must remember, as Glasgow prepares to host COP26, that it is the poorest countries, the ones that have done the least to cause climate change, are the ones suffering the most.”