A new study identified the year’s 10 costliest extreme events influenced by the climate crisis, with each causing more than $3 billion in damage
The 10 most financially costly events this year all had an impact of $3 billion or more. A new report ‘Counting the cost 2022: a year of climate breakdown’ identified the most destructive climate disasters of the year and estimated the cost. Most of these estimates were based only on insured losses, meaning the true financial costs are likely to be even higher, while the human costs are often uncounted.
Among the events, the report listed Hurricane Ian, which struck the US and Cuba in September, costing $100 billion and displacing 40,000 people. The report said that the drought and heatwave in Europe cost $20 billion, while floods in Pakistan killed more than 1,700 people, displaced a further seven million, and according to World Bank estimates, caused $30 billion in economic damage. Due to the difficulty of obtaining insurance, only $5.6 billion of these losses were covered.
While the report focused on financial costs, which are usually higher in richer countries because they have higher property values and can afford insurance, some of the most devastating extreme weather events in 2022 hit poorer nations, which have contributed little to the climate crisis and have the fewest buffers with which to withstand shocks.
In the report, a second list of 10 climate disasters highlighted some of these other climate events of 2022, which didn’t make the list of insured losses. These events were just as damaging to communities or posed worrying future threats such as the Arctic and Antarctic heatwaves, Malaysian floods, back-to-back storms in Southeast Africa i.e. in Madagascar, Mozambique and Malawi, the India and Pakistan heatwaves, etc.
The extreme weather events caused severe human suffering from food insecurity, drought, mass displacements and loss of life. A devastating drought had affected more than 36 million people in East Africa, pushing many to the brink of famine. Whilst people in East Africa have been suffering from drought, in West Africa 1.3 million people were displaced by floods that killed more than 600 people in Nigeria, Cameroon, Mali and Niger.
Some of the disasters in 2022 hit rapidly, like February’s Storm Eunice, which set a new UK wind speed record of 122 mph and Hurricane Fiona m, which struck the Caribbean and Canada in September and caused losses valued at more than $3 billion in just a few days.
Other events, said the report, took months to unfold, like the droughts in Brazil and China that lasted all year and cost $4 billion and $8.4 billion respectively. No corner of the globe was spared from the costliest climate impacts in 2022 with all six populated continents represented in the top 10.
These impacts were also felt by some of the biggest fossil fuel polluters. Hurricane Ian in the USA, Hurricane Fiona in Canada, and floods in Eastern Australia in February costing $7.5 billion all struck countries with some of the biggest per person carbon emissions. Elsewhere floods in South Africa, and droughts and floods in China hit two of the world’s biggest coal producers.
The report said that Europe, battered by Storm Eunice and baked by the summer drought, is responsible for around 18% of human-caused greenhouse gases. It has pledged to go net zero by 2050, but according to Climate Action Tracker, current plans are ‘insufficient’.
The Paris Agreement set the goal of keeping temperature rise to below 1.5°C compared to pre-industrial levels, yet the outcome from the COP27 climate summit in Egypt does not currently leave the world on track to meet this goal, which is why much more urgent action is required.
The report underlined the importance of the loss and damage fund recently agreed to at COP27 to provide financial support to people in developing countries who have suffered huge losses due to a climate crisis they have not caused. The report called on world leaders to decide how the fund is managed and get money flowing into it.