Altering the climate is a constant economic drain. The climate crisis has continued to take a huge human and economic toll in 2020. Extreme weather events, wild forest fires and even insect pests associated with global warming have produced, in addition to the damage to people, billions of euros of Economic losses worldwide: Only the ten most destructive episodes have totaled 145,000 million dollars (120,000 million euros), according to the Christian Aid organization.
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This is only the list of the “financially devastating” setbacks, they warn the NGO that has also taken into account “only the losses of insured assets” so “the real figure is possibly much higher.” “Whether with floods, storms or locust clouds, climate change has continued to unfold this year,” summarizes study author Katherine Kramer.
The study makes an approximation of the consequences of economic destruction that various extreme events associated with climate change have caused throughout 2020. However, the authors themselves warn that “economic costs are usually higher in richer countries because have more valuable properties “but that” some of these episodes have hit the poorest countries, although the price tag [de los bienes destruidos] be lower. ”
Which episode triggered by the climate crisis has been the most costly? The prism from which you look changes the answer. This year there have been rapid and very damaging phenomena such as hurricanes in the Caribbean, Central America and part of the United States, which have cost at least 4.1 billion dollars and have forced more than 200,000 people to displace. has been a season with more hurricanes than ever and of great intensity. Cyclone Amphan struck the Bay of Bengal in May with 4.9 million displaced people and an associated economic cost of $ 13 billion.
If hurricanes strike very violently for a few days, on other occasions, the effects of unnatural warming of the planet cause extreme but prolonged episodes: “They develop over months,” these analysts explain. Among that variant they include in 2020 the floods in Asia. From June to October, the avenues in China have cost 32,000 million dollars and displaced 3.7 million citizens (in addition to 278 direct deaths). In that same season, floods in India left 10 billion devastated, 4 million people out of their homes and more than 2,000 lives lost.
Also in this destructive ranking, floods have been found in Japan, Vietnam or Pakistan. South Sudan suffered its worst floods and lost a year’s crop.
Europe is not saved
No part of the world is spared. In Europe, this same year there have been several extratropical hurricanes. The ones that cost the most were the storms named Clara and Alex whose combined damage reached almost $ 6 billion. “And they are just one example of a trend whereby extreme weather events occur regularly in Europe.”
If in February Clara struck mainly in Ireland and the United Kingdom, in October, Alex attacked southern Europe more. In the Italian Piedmont 630 mm of rain was recorded in 24 hours. The storm put eight autonomous communities in Spain on alert for rain, wind and rough seas. This storm was the first “high-impact squall” of this season –which is different from the hurricane season that forms in the Atlantic Caribbean and that, on occasions, are reaching latitudes as far east as to touch Spain– in the that there are five, according to the records of the State Meteorological Agency. The most recent was Ernest which caused orange warnings for its winds and red ones for coastal phenomena.
Wildfires in Australia started at the end of 2019, but lasted to scorch 18 million hectares of forest. The flames destroyed thousands of buildings, killed 1 billion wild animals and 34 people. The smoke traveled thousands of miles to affect the people of Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra. “Only the cost in medical attention because of that smoke added more than 1,400 million dollars”, they have calculated in this work. The fires of this 2020 have meant losses of more than 3,600 million.
Months later, dozens of fires on the west coast of the United States, spread from California to Washington and Oregon as well as Colorado and Arizona, devastated 3.2 million hectares. 42 people died and the economic loss has amounted to 20,000 million euros, according to Christian Aid estimates. “Droughts and rising temperatures brought about by climate change contribute to the severity of forest fires,” the authors of the analysis recall. The scientific group World Weather Attribution explains that “climate change increases the risk of fires by 30%.”
Following an unusual rainy season, several East African countries were struck by a locust infestation in the first months of 2020. The insects appeared in Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia and Uganda.
The swarms of grasshoppers destroyed vast areas of forest, pastures and crops, endangering the diet of the populations. It was the worst outbreak in 25 years in the region. The World Bank estimated that the loss of crops and “other economic, human and environmental impacts” reached $ 8.5 billion.
“Climate change and extreme events were relevant factors in the outbreak,” explained FAO. Locusts are a phase of some species of grasshoppers that change morphologically and behaviorally under certain circumstances, and thrive in humid environments so pests emerge after floods and cyclones. The Horn of Africa had eight during 2019, paving the way for the multiplication of these insects.
This dire list that combines climate crisis and economic impact is completed by the unusual heat wave that Siberia has endured, the typhoon that crossed the Philippines or the fires from August to November located in South America. Nobody escapes.