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Here’s how much climate change events are actually costing us

A study by Christian Aid has detailed the top 10 most expensive climate events of 2022. Two of them were in the UK

As leading scientists warn the planet is close to “irreversible climate breakdown” and the UK looks set to register it hottest year on record, a new report has revealed how much climate inaction is actually costing us.

The study by Christian Aid details the top 10 most expensive climate events of 2022, and two of them were in the UK: Storm Eunice and a drought across Europe caused by the summer heatwave.

“Having 10 separate climate disasters in the last year that each cost more than $3bn points to the financial cost of inaction on the climate crisis,” said CEO of Christian Aid Patrick Wyatt. “But behind the figures lie millions of stories of human loss and suffering. Without major cuts in greenhouse gas emissions, this human and financial toll will only increase.” 

Economic impacts are higher in high income countries, as the economic value of infrastructure and homes tends to be higher, and they tend to be covered by insurance more widely, according to the report.

Many of the climate events recorded in 2022 affected lower-income countries, who also have produced lower carbon emissions, such as Pakistan, South Africa, the Caribbean, Cuba, Brazil, Malaysia, Bangladesh, and the Philippines.

The report found death toll and displacement numbers to be higher in poorer countries, which are also less likely to have insurance to cover their losses.

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Here are the top 10 most expensive climate evens of 2022.

Storm Eunice

Storm Eunice caused nearly $5billion in damage for Belgium, Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands, Poland, and the UK.

It struck in February across the south-east, south-west, and east of England, as well as London and Wales.

The storm, which also travelled to northern Europe, had record-breaking winds and caused devastating damage to buildings, with power outages for hundreds of thousands of people, severe injuries, and at least 16 fatalities.

European drought brought on by the summer heatwave

Persistent summer heatwaves across Europe saw temperatures of between 38C and 47C and brought the highest temperatures ever recorded in the UK. The resulting drought led to over $20bn in damage between June and September, the study found.

Figures released by European countries in November showed an estimated 20,000 people died as a result of the heatwave, which experts have attributed to climate change-induced global heating.

Wyatt added: “The UK did not escape the ravages of climate change in 2022 with both Storm Eunice and the summer heatwave taking their toll. This underlines the need for policies to accelerate the transition to net zero and the folly of the decision to open a new coal mine in Cumbria.”

The summer heatwave drove hundreds to the beach. (Credit: Funk Dooby/Flickr)

Hurricane Ian

Though both Storm Eunice and the heatwave were among the most costly climate events, they were not the most expensive – that honour goes to Hurricane Ian, which struck Cuba and the US in late September.

The hurricane led to 130 deaths, 40,000 people displaced, and over $100bn in damage.

Pakistan floods

Flooding in Pakistan displaced over seven million people and is estimated to have caused over $30bn in damages, but only $5.6bn were covered by insurance.

Pakistan only produces 0.9 per cent of the global carbon footprint, while the European Union produces 18 per cent of global carbon emissions.

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East Australia floods

The floods hit Australia in February and March, and are considered one of the country’s worst recorded flood disasters ever.

According to Christian Aid, at least 27 people died as a result of the floods, but over 60,000 people were displaced as a result.

Regions of southern Queensland and northern New South Wales saw a year’s worth of rainfall in just one week, costing over $7.5bn in relief and repair efforts.

KwaZula Natal and Eastern Cape floods

Several days of intense rainfall caused floods and landslides in South Africa, leading to president Cyril Ramaphosa declaring a national state of disaster.

At least 459 people were killed and more than 40,000 people were displaced during the floods, as well as disrupting the supply chain and local industries, costing $3bn.

South Africa is the largest greenhouse gas emitter on the continent – which the World Weather Attribution group found to be partly responsible for the increase in rainfall and flooding in the region.

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China floods

Between June and September, during China’s rainy season, many parts of the country saw intense flooding. The flooding led to huge economic and human losses, with insured damages exceeding $12bn in total.

Fortunately, no one died as a result of the floods but over 200 people were displaced as a result of the “destructive rains.”

Hurricane Fiona

Weeks prior to Hurricane Ian, several Caribbean islands and parts of Canada were severely affected by Hurricane Fiona. 

After first hitting Puerto Rico, which left 90 percent of the island without electricity, the hurricane travelled to the Dominican Republic, Turks and Caicos, Bermuda, and Nova Scotia.

Thousands of people were left without power as a result of the cyclone, with 1.2 million people experiencing water supply issues, and at least 13,000 people displaced. Hurricane Fiona led to 25 fatalities and $3bn in damage.

Caribbean nations contribute fairly little to global carbon emissions but are extremely vulnerable to the effects of climate change.

Hurricane in Yemen. There have been 8 hurricanes in 2022. (Credit: NASA/Unsplash)

Drought in Brazil

A lack of rain and record high temperatures led to extensive droughts in Brazil this year. The country experienced poor harvests and heavy agricultural losses, as well as issues with energy production as Brazil relies heavily on hydropower.

This cost the country $4bn in economic damage.

A recent report by the United Nations found human-induced climate change is increasing the risk of drought globally, and could force over 200 million people to migrate by 2050 due to reduced crops and water scarcity.

Drought in China

Throughout the year, high temperatures and a lack of rain led to droughts across China and low river levels. It cost the country over $8.4bn in damage, affecting hydropower generation and preventing shipping.

The World Weather Attribution group found human-induced climate change has made droughts in the Northern Hemisphere 5-20 times more likely.

China is the world’s largest emitter of carbon emissions, accounting for 30 percent of the global emissions.

Every populated continent was represented in the top 10 costliest disasters, showing how climate change affects everyone.

Hayley Fowler, Professor of Climate Change Impacts at Newcastle University, said: “The number of extreme weather events we have seen across the globe in both 2021 and again in 2022 should be a wake-up call to the international community.”

The Big Issue’s #BigFutures campaign is calling for investment in decent and affordable housing, ending the low wage economy, and millions of green jobs. The last 10 years of austerity and cuts to public services have failed to deliver better living standards for people in this country. Sign the open letter and demand a better future.

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