The top ten most costly weather disasters in the world this year recorded $ 150 billion in insured losses, beating the 2019 figure and reflecting the long-term effects of global warming, according to a report on Monday.
The same disasters killed at least 3,500 people and displaced more than 13.5 million people.
From Australia’s runaway forest fires in January to a record number of Atlantic hurricanes through November, the real cost of the year’s climate-related disasters was actually far higher, with most of the losses uninsured.
Unsurprisingly, the burden on poor nations was disproportionate, as evidenced by the global NGO Christian Aid’s annual balance sheet, “Count the Cost of 2020: A Year of Climate Collapse”.
Only four percent of economic losses from extreme climate events in low-income countries were insured, compared with 60 percent in high-income economies, the report said, citing a study published last month in The Lancet.
“Whether floods in Asia, grasshoppers in Africa or storms in Europe and America – climate change has increased further in 2020,” said Kat Kramer, Head of Climate Policy at Christian Aid.
Extreme weather disasters naturally plagued humanity long before man-made global warming affected the planet’s climate system.
However, more than a century of temperature and precipitation data, as well as decades of satellite data on hurricanes and sea level rise, have left no doubt that the Earth’s warming surface temperature is amplifying its effects.
For example, massive tropical storms – known as hurricanes, typhoons, and cyclones – are now stronger, last longer, carry more water, and migrate beyond their historical range.
The record-breaking 30 named Atlantic hurricanes in 2020 – with at least 400 fatalities and $ 41 billion in damage – suggest the world may experience more such storms as well.
The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) had to use Greek symbols after running out of letters in the Latin alphabet.
Extremes, not averages
Intense summer floods in China and India, where the monsoon season caused abnormal rainfall for the second year in a row, are also in line with predictions of how the climate will affect rainfall.
Five of the most expensive extreme weather events in 2020 were related to the unusually rainy monsoons in Asia.
“The 2020 flood was one of the worst in Bangladesh’s history. More than a quarter of the country was flooded,” said Shahjahan Mondal, director of the Institute of Flood and Water Management at the University of Engineering and Technology in Bangladesh.
Forest fires that scorched record areas in California, Australia, and even Russia’s Siberian hinterland, largely within the Arctic Circle, are also consistent with a warmer world and a prediction that it will worsen as temperatures rise.
The planet’s average surface temperature has increased by an average of at least 1.1 degrees Celsius compared to the late 19th century, with much of that warming occurring in the last half century.
The Paris Agreement of 2015 commits the nations of the world to jointly limit global warming to “well below” 2 ° C and, if possible, even to 1.5 ° C.
A landmark 2018 report by the United Nations IPCC Advisory Panel on Climate Sciences showed that 1.5 ° C is a safer threshold, but the likelihood of staying below it has become negligible, according to many experts.
“Ultimately, the effects of climate change will be felt through extremes, not average changes,” noted Sarah Perkins-Kilpatrick, a senior lecturer at the University of New South Wales’ Climate Change Research Center.
With the increasing frequency and intensity of natural weather disasters in line with modeling projections, the new field of attribution science can now establish a number for how much more likely such an event is due to global warming.
The unprecedented forest fires that destroyed 20 percent of Australia’s forests and killed tens of millions of wildlife in late 2019 and early 2020 were at least 30 percent more likely to change, according to research by Friederike Otto of Oxford’s Environmental Institute.
In Europe, the likelihood of fatal heat waves has increased almost 100 times compared to a century ago, according to recent research.
“Heat waves and floods that used to be ‘once a century’ are becoming more common,” noted WMO General Secretary Petteri Taalas.
(This story was not edited by GossipMantri staff and is automatically generated from a syndicated feed.)