Kat Kramer, Christian Aid’s climate policy lead, stated that “The costs of climate change have been grave this year, both in terms of eyewatering financial losses but also in the death and displacement of people around the world.’ Indeed, 2021’s 10 largest extreme weather events caused over $170.3 billion in damages across the world, and most of the damage estimates are based only on insured losses, meaning the true financial costs are likely to be even higher.
according to Christian Aid, the top 10 most damaging climate disasters were:
- Hurricane Ida – $65bn
- European floods –$43bn
- Texas Winter storm –$23bn
- Henan floods –$17.6bn
- British Columbia floods –$7.5bn
- France’s ‘cold wave’ –$5.6bn
- Cyclone Yaas –$3bn
- Australian floods –$2.1bn
- Typhoon In-Fa –$2bn
- Cyclone Tauktae – $1.5bn
- Total cost – $170.3bn
Hurricane Ida tops the cake as the most damaging climate disaster which occurred in 2021, and is the second most damaging and intense hurricane to make landfall in the state of Louisiana on record, Hurricane Katrina holding 1st place. At landfall, Ida had maximum sustained winds of 150mph/240kmh, tying Hurricane Laura as the strongest on record in the state.
Through its path of destruction in Louisiana, more than a million people in total lost their electric power. Widespread heavy infrastructural damage occurred throughout the south-eastern portion of the state, as well as extremely heavy flooding in coast areas. The flooding in New York City prompted the shutdown of much of the transportation system.
July 2021 saw multiple European countries suffer severe flooding’s, starting with flash floods in the UK. Later floods then affected several river basins across European countries such as Austria, Belgium, Croatia, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, The Netherlands, and Switzerland. July and August 2021 also saw many floods occurring in Turkey, China, India, Afghanistan, Pakistan, The U.S.A, and New Zealand.
A minimum of 242 people have died in the European floods, including 196 in Germany, 42 in Belgium, 2 in Romania, 1 in Italy and 1 in Austria. In addition to these confirmed fatalities, the flooding led to widespread power outages, forced evacuations, and damage to infrastructure and agriculture in the affected areas.
Belgian Minister of Home Affairs described the events as ‘one of the greatest natural disasters our country has ever known’
The hard-hitting truth
Whilst many call these tragic events ‘natural disasters’, perhaps a better term from now on would be ‘climate disasters’, as it seems that it’s the indirect effects of humans which is creating these huge storms and monstrous floods.
A study by the UN’s IPCC this year found an ‘unequivocal’ connection between human-caused global warming and extreme weather, and looking at the data it’s very clear: According to insurance company Aon, 2021 is the 6th time global natural catastrophes have cost more than $100bn, all 6 occurring after 2010.
Furthermore, the NGO points out that “some of the most devastating extreme weather events of 2021 occurred in poor countries, which have contributed little to the causes of climate change” and where most of the damage is not insured. In South Sudan, for instance, floods whose economic cost could not be assessed, affected some 800,000 people, according to Christian Aid.
Extreme weather events are the clearest way we’re feeling climate change in our daily lives, and therefore this year should be a testament to the reality, severity, and urgency of climate change, realities which are not being countered by sufficient climate action, and many even claim the action taken in the momentous COP26 summit was insufficient for the task at hand. “One glaring omission from the outcome in Glasgow was a fund to deal with the permanent loss and damage caused by climate change,” Christian Aid reports. “This is one issue which will need to be addressed a COP27 in Egypt in 2022.”