In 2019, at least 15 disasters are linked to the climate crisis that caused damages costing more than $1bn (£760m) each, and more than half of them costing even more than $10bn each.
Every inhabited continent was struck by extreme weather, including floods, storms, droughts, and wildfires struck in the past year and experienced devastation and loss of life all around. After tracking all climate-related destructions in 2019, the Christian Aid report concluded that in human terms, the costs and insured losses were likely to have been underestimated.
In Argentina and Uruguay, floods in January this year forced 11,000 people to dislocate from their homes to other places. Around 1,300 people killed in Cyclone Idai occurred in Zimbabwe, Mozambique, and Malawi in March. In May and June, Cyclone Fani struck India and Bangladesh, and 1,900 people died in India in a stronger monsoon than usual.
Richer countries were also not an exception. Europe was severely affected by storm Eberhard hitting in March, and the typhoons Faxai and Hagibis caused devastation in Japan in September and October that disrupted the Rugby World Cup. Wildfires in California caused damage to farming areas in more than $25bn. Besides, Hurricane Dorian killed 673 people along the US east coast.
Before full effects of the Australian wildfires could be assessed, the study was compiled. It published on Friday.
Kat Kramer, a co-author of the report and the global climate lead at Christian Aid, said time was running out to deal with the climate crisis.
“Last year, [greenhouse gas] emissions continued to rise, so it’s essential that nations prepare new and enhanced pledges for action to [fulfill] the Paris agreement as soon as possible,” she said. “That will ensure the world responds urgently to the warnings of scientists, as well as the demands from schoolchildren around the globe who are horrified at the kind of world they are being forced to inherit.”
The losses from Hurricane Dorian were at least $11bn, and damages in floods in the Midwest and the south of the US from March to June cost about $12.5bn. India alone suffered losses of more than $18bn from floods and Cyclone Fani, and these estimates covered only insured losses. In China, Typhoon Lekima was estimated to have cost a minimum of $10bn, and there were also floods from June to August that cost a similar amount.
According to experts, the extreme weather and record-breaking temperatures were linked to human actions.
Michael Mann, the director of the Earth System Science Center at Pennsylvania State University, said: “If anything, 2019 saw even more profound extreme weather events around the world than last year, including wildfires from the Amazon to the Arctic, and devastating out-of-season simultaneous wildfires in California and Australia, winter heatwaves and devastating superstorms.
“With each day now, we are seemingly reminded of the cost of climate inaction in the form of ever-threatening climate change-spiked weather extremes.”
UN climate talks in Madrid earlier this month failed to make much progress through Governments. Still, climate activists and campaigners hope the public concern and activism globally, as well as reminders of the increasingly growing economic and social costs of inaction, will act as a spur.
Next year early November, nations will meet in Glasgow to update their plans under the Paris accord. Action will be taken, ensuring global temperature rises do not exceed 2C above pre-industrial levels.