Asia Pacific / Science & Health

U.K. charity says 10 worst climate-linked disasters this year caused an estimated $85 billion in damage

Thomson Reuters Foundation

From floods to extreme heat, 10 of the worst climate-linked disasters in 2018 caused at least $84.8 billion worth of damage, a study released by the charity Christian Aid said on Thursday.

Extreme weather driven by climate change hit every populated continent this year, the British relief organization said, warning that urgent action is needed to combat global warming.

“This report shows that for many people, climate change is having devastating impacts on their lives and livelihoods right now,” Kat Kramer, who heads Christian Aid’s work on climate issues, said in a statement.

Experts say a warming world will lead to sweltering heat waves, more extreme rainfall, shrinking harvests and worsening water shortages, causing both monetary losses and human misery.

Almost 200 nations are aiming to limit the rise in average world temperatures under the landmark 2015 Paris Agreement, though some warn progress to meet targets has been slow.

The 20 warmest years on record have been within the last 22 years, the United Nations said last month, with 2018 on track to be the fourth hottest.

The most expensive climate-linked weather events of 2018 were hurricanes Florence and Michael, which caused at least $32 billion worth of damage as they slammed into the United States, the Caribbean and parts of Central America, the report said.

The United States also suffered at least $9 billion of losses from wildfires that caused dozens of deaths and destroyed thousands of homes in California.

Japan was badly hit by severe floods over the summer, followed by the powerful Typhoon Jebi in the autumn, which together caused more than $9.3 billion in damages, said the report.

It also cited droughts in Europe, floods in south India and Typhoon Mangkhut in the Philippines and China as among the most expensive climate-linked disasters of 2018.

The report’s authors collated total cost figures using data from sources including governments, banks and insurance firms, although in some cases the figures only covered insured losses and also failed to take account of the human costs of such events.

They added that rising temperatures will continue to drive extreme weather events, and they urged action to prevent further global warming, which would affect the poorest and most vulnerable communities hardest.

“The impacts of climate change are no longer subtle,” said Michael Mann, professor of atmospheric science at Penn State University, in a statement on the study. “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.”