Hurricanes, droughts, and supercharged tropical storms caused huge economic damage in 2018 according to a new report from Christian Aid, which underscores the financial cost of rising greenhouse gases.
According to the research, published late last week, the ten most destructive droughts, floods, fires, heatwaves, typhoons and hurricanes of 2018 caused economic damage of more than $1bn each, with the four most destructive costing more than $7bn each.
The costliest disasters of 2018 included Hurricanes Florence and Michael, which respectively cost $17bn and $15bn and wreaked havoc across the US and parts of Central America.
Elsewhere in the world, drought cost Argentina $6bn, mainly from lost soybean and corn crops, while floods in Japan killed more than 200 people and cost $7bn.
The charity pointed out these figures were conservative estimates, in some cases only taking into account insured losses and therefore excluding the cost of uninsured losses and lost productivity.
Dr Kat Kramer, Christian Aid’s global climate lead, said the report demonstrates the immediate risk climate change poses to the world.
“Climate change is something still often talked about as a future problem, not least because we know the consequences of the warming climate are so devastating and don’t want to face up to what is already happening,” Kramer said. “This report shows that for many people, climate change is having devastating impacts on their lives and livelihoods right now.”
Scientists are becoming increasingly confident in their ability to attribute specific extreme weather events to climate change. Over the summer experts confirmed the heatwave in northern Europe was made twice as likely because of human-caused climate change, for example, while the World Meteorological Organisation said rainfall from Storm Harvey’s, which deluged Texas in August, was likely linked to climate change.
Responding to the Christian Aid report, scientists said the evidence suggests swifter action to reduce emissions is necessary to prevent even more dramatic economic and social damage in the years to come. “The unprecedented floods, droughts, heat waves, wildfires and superstorms we’ve seen in recent years – they are the face of climate change,” said Dr Michael Mann, distinguished professor of atmospheric science at Penn State University. “The world’s weather is becoming more extreme before our eyes – the only thing that can stop this destructive trend from escalating is a rapid fall in carbon emissions.”