What were the most expensive climate catastrophes in 2022?

  • A new report reveals the 10 most costly climate disasters of 2022.
  • The costliest events include floods in Australia and Pakistan, and Hurricane Ian, which hit the US and Cuba.
  • The frequency and intensity of extreme weather events is increasing due to climate change, experts say.
The financial costs of 2022’s most destructive climate disasters have been revealed, with a new report saying the top 10 each caused more than $4.5 billion in damage.
All six settled continents were represented in the top 10 hit by storms, floods and droughts, including the floods that devastated Australia’s east coast in February and March, the Pakistan floods from June to September and Hurricane Ian, which struck Cuba and hit the US in September and October.
The top 10 total $168 billion ($249 billion), dwarfing the fortune of Tesla and Twitter owner Elon Musk, who is now worth $148 billion ($219 billion), according to Bloomberg’s Billionaires Index dollars) is worth.

The aid and development organization Christian Aid wrote the report. CEO Patrick Watt said the fact that each disaster in the top 10 costs more than $4.5 billion is telling.

“[It] points to the financial cost of inaction on the climate crisis,” said Mr Watt.
“Behind the dollar figures lie millions of stories of human loss and suffering. Without major savings in greenhouse gas emissions, this human and financial toll will only increase.”

He said the human cost of climate change includes destroyed homes, loss of life and damage to the agricultural livelihoods of many.

Flooding at Lismore

Floods in Lismore in March. The floods that ravaged Australia’s east coast made the report’s top 10. Source: AAP / Jason O’Brien

Christian Aid is urging world leaders to decide how to manage the loss and damage fund agreed at November’s COP27 climate conference, and to ensure money flows into it.

The fund aims to provide financial support to people in developing countries who have suffered enormous losses as a result of a climate crisis.

The costliest climate disaster of 2022 was Hurricane Ian, which struck Cuba and the United States between September and October. It caused damage estimated at more than $150 billion, displaced over 40,000 people and claimed 130 lives.
Floods in Australia have displaced more than 60,000 people and cost more than $11 billion.
Floods in China cost $18 billion and displaced 239 people.
Devastating floods in Pakistan killed 1,739 people and cost an estimated $8.3 billion.

Christian Aid said most amounts are estimates based on insurance numbers.

A table with the top 10 most expensive natural disasters.

The report found that floods, hurricanes and droughts have killed and displaced millions of people in parts of the developing world, which have historically contributed very little to the rapid rise in greenhouse gas emissions. Source: SBS News

Both the “frequency” and “intensity” of extreme weather events are increasing due to climate change, leading to “unprecedented economic and social impacts,” said Shouro Dasgupta, a researcher at the RFF-CMCC European Institute on Economics and the Environment.

Mr Dasgupta said one of the main impacts of climate change is food security.

An area of ​​land devastated by a hurricane.  There are several trees on the ground.

An RV site in Florida a month after Hurricane Ian. Source: EPA / Cristobal Herrera-Ulashkevich

“Climate change is already undermining global food security and compounding the impact of the COVID-19, geopolitical, energy and livelihood crises,” he said.

The increasing frequency of heat waves, which Mr Dasgupta said is attributable to climate change, meant that an estimated 98 million more people were “moderately or severely” food insecure in 2020 than the 1981-2010 average, according to the latest .
Professor Hayley Fowler is Professor of Climate Change Impacts at Newcastle University in the UK. She said temperatures have already risen by about 1.2C since pre-industrial times due to human activities. Warmer air can hold more moisture, making extreme rain and flooding and hotter heat waves more likely.
“Climate change is therefore making extreme weather events more intense when they occur and more persistent,” Professor Fowler said. “This makes them more expensive and impactful, and means managing their impact on communities is a major challenge.”
The biggest polluters in 2022 were China, the US, India, Russia and Japan, in that order.

African countries have not been among the worst polluters, but are suffering from the effects of emissions from richer nations.

People wading in the water with belongings

Floods in Pakistan have displaced millions of people and caused damage estimated at more than US$8.3 billion. Source: AP / Fared Khan

Mohamed Adow, director of Nairobi-based energy and climate think tank Power Shift Africa, said: “Here in Africa we see the suffering that climate change is inflicting on those who have least contributed to it.”

“2023 has to be the year we all wake up and start putting the world on the right track.”

Nushrat Chowdhury, a climate justice adviser in Bangladesh, said the disasters show the scale of inequalities and vulnerabilities facing the global South.
“This report shows how bad it is [loss and damage fund] needed and the urgency with which we need to make it work,” he said.
“The people who were flooded in Pakistan or the victims of Cyclone Sitrang in my country of Bangladesh need this support to rebuild their lives.
“Many people in the Global South who are dealing with these disasters cannot afford insurance to cover their losses and they often cannot rely on the government to act as a safety net. The fact that they have done almost nothing to create the climate emergency is why it is so unfair that they must suffer without support.

“We need to see that change in 2023.”

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