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Climate change: Cost of extreme weather events increased in 2021, says NGO

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By AFP
The remains of a bridge lead over the Ahr river in Resch in the Ahrtal valley, southern Germany, Dec.14, 2021.
The remains of a bridge lead over the Ahr river in Resch in the Ahrtal valley, southern Germany, Dec.14, 2021.   -   Copyright  Photo/Michael Probst   -  

The ten costliest weather disasters of 2021 exceeded $170 billion (€150 billion) in total damage, according to a British NGO. 

The figure is an increase from the previous year and reflects the growing impact of global warming, Christian Aid said in its annual report released on Monday. 

The 10 extreme weather events also killed at least 1,075 people and displaced more than 1.3 million.

Last year, the economic damage of the 10 costliest weather events was calculated at nearly $150 billion (€132.5 billion) by the NGO, which points out that most assessments "are based solely on insured damage, suggesting even higher real costs".

This economic ranking over-represents disasters in richer countries with more developed and better-insured infrastructure, but 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.

The costliest disaster was storm Ida — end of August, beginning of September — which caused flooding in New York estimated to have incurred an economic cost of $65 billion (€57.5 billion).

The July floods in Germany, Belgium and neighbouring countries, ranked second with losses estimated at $43 billion (€38 billion) while Uri, a US winter storm that unleashed a cold snap reaching as far south as Texas and wreaked havoc on the electricity grid, caused $23 billion (€20.3 billion) in damage.

The floods in China's Henan province in July ($17.6 billion - €15.5 billion) also exceeded $10 billion in damage.

This was followed by flooding in British Columbia, Canada ($7.5 billion), the late April cold snap in France which ravaged prestigious vineyards ($5.6 billion), Cyclone Yaas in India and Bangladesh ($3 billion), flooding in Australia ($2.1 billion), Typhoon In-Fa in China ($2 billion),  and Cyclone Tuktae in India and Sri Lanka ($1.5 billion).

In mid-December, the reinsurer Swiss Re published a global estimate of the cost of natural disasters in 2021, estimated at some $250 billion (€221 billion), up 24% on 2020.

Weather disasters have always existed, but climate change caused by human activity is increasing their frequency and impacts, according to scientists.