Sherry Rehman, Pakistan’s climate change minister, became the face of developing countries’ vindication against wealthier nations at the last UN climate summit. That COP27, held in November in the Egyptian city of Sharm el Sheikh, closed with the commitment to create an international fund to compensate for the losses and damages that global warming causes and will cause in nations with fewer resources and especially vulnerable. Rehman was the voice of the demand of the Global South so that this compensation mechanism be established. Her country had suffered in the summer from tremendous floods that submerged 10% of her territory under water and which became the symbol of the havoc that the climate crisis is already causing in the countries that are least responsible for the problem. .
The floods in Pakistan are part of the list of the 10 most expensive meteorological disasters of 2022 made by the British NGO Christian Aid. The economic impact of these ten events linked to the climate crisis calculated in the study by this organization exceeds 168,100 million dollars (an equivalent amount in euros with the current exchange rate). But the authors caution that most of their estimates are based only on losses covered by insurers, so it is very likely that “the true financial costs are even higher, while the human costs are often not accounted for.” warns the NGO.
The fact that the study is based on insured damage makes the ranking It is led by phenomena that hit the richest nations, where property values are higher and citizens and companies can afford to pay for insurance. that’s why the hurricane Ian (which hit the US and Cuba at the end of September and beginning of October) and the extraordinary drought this summer in Europe are the extreme events with the highest associated costs in this study.
On September 26, Hurricane Ian it made landfall on Cuba as a Category 3 storm. Three people died on the island and more than 30,000 were evacuated. But two days later, the storm upgraded to a Category 4 storm and reached Florida. In total, 130 people died in the United States; is considered to Ian the second deadliest hurricane in this country (the first was Katrina). In addition, more than 40,000 people were displaced. The Christian Aid study estimates the economic cost of this disaster at more than 100,000 million dollars.
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The IPCC, the group of experts that lay the foundations for scientific knowledge of climate change, warned in its latest report that global warming caused by humans is already leading to stronger and more frequent cyclones and hurricanes in the world.
Extreme drought in Europe
The summer of 2022 was the hottest in Europe since at least 1880, according to the Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S) of the European Commission. The high temperatures were joined by an unprecedented drought that sent some of the main European rivers, such as the Rhine in Germany, the Loire in France and the Po in Italy, to rock-bottom levels. Spain has not been immune to this situation either and its water reserves have dropped to levels never seen since the great drought of the mid-1990s. All this has caused economic impacts on agriculture, livestock and energy generation whose cost exceeds 20,000 million dollars.
A group of scientists specialized in attributing extreme events to climate change —the World Weather Attribution (WWA)— produced a report highlighting the unusual nature of the drought that hit Europe and the Northern Hemisphere. And he pointed out that the current level of global warming leads to a drought of this caliber and extent occurring once every 20 years; if there were no climate change, it would occur once every 400 years.
floods in china
The rainy season this year in China has been intense and has generated extensive flooding, explains the review carried out by Christian Aid, which estimates the costs of insured damage in this country at 12.3 billion dollars due to the June downpours. , July and August. The report recalls that climate change also has an impact on changes in rainfall patterns and that in the case of China more torrential rains are expected, which in turn will cause more flooding.
drought in china
Despite these downpours, the truth is that throughout 2022 a significant part of China has been subjected to high temperatures and scant rainfall. The level in the basins of some rivers, such as the Yangtze, the country’s largest, has fallen so low that it has affected hydroelectric power generation and river transport. The study by the British organization estimates that the losses linked to this drought in China exceed 8.4 billion dollars.
floods in australia
Between February and April this year, much of eastern Australia was also affected by heavy rains, which led to significant flooding in the country. The final balance was 27 deaths, more than 60,000 displaced and losses of 7,500 million dollars, according to the study.
Floods in Pakistan
From June to the end of August, Pakistan experienced an extremely intense monsoon season that flooded a significant area of the country. The floods killed 1.1 million head of cattle and destroyed crops on 3.8 million hectares. 1,739 people died and seven million more had to leave their homes. The report estimates the insured damage caused by these floods, described as “biblical” by the Prime Minister of Pakistan, Shehbaz Sharif, at more than 5.6 billion dollars. But the losses are predictably much higher. The World Bank calculates that they exceed 30,000 million.
WWA climatologist experts conducted an attribution report for this event and concluded that human-caused climate change with its greenhouse gas emissions “probably increased” the heavy rains suffered by this country. However, if the list of countries that have contributed the most to the problem with their historical emissions is reviewed, Pakistan is responsible for barely 0.3% of the gases emitted since the Industrial Revolution, although it is in the red zone of risks climatic.
Storm eunice hit northern and central Europe in February. The extreme episode caused extensive damage in Belgium, Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands, Poland and the United Kingdom, killing 16 people. The costs of this storm exceed $4.3 billion.
Drought in Brazil
More than 4,000 million dollars this year is the cost of the drought that is affecting Brazil. The lack of rain is linked to The girl, a cyclical meteorological phenomenon that has been affecting South America for three years. But the Christian Aid report suggests that humans are also partly responsible for the drought: for example, deforestation in the Amazon rainforest has already been linked to reduced rainfall in the region.
In September, the hurricane Fiona first hit Puerto Rico, where 90% of the population lost power). It then moved on to the Dominican Republic, where 13,000 people were displaced and 1.2 million had their water cut off. And, after creating more problems on several islands in the Atlantic, it ended up affecting Canada, becoming the most intense tropical cyclone in the history of that North American country. The estimated cost of this event, which killed 25 people, exceeds 3,000 million dollars.
floods in south africa
In April, South Africa suffered several days of heavy rain that triggered flooding and landslides. At least 459 people died and more than 40,000 were displaced from their homes. The cost of the insured assets exceeded 3 billion dollars and, once again, a WWA report pointed to human-induced climate change as the driver of the increase in this type of rainfall in the region.
Hunger, deaths and millions of displaced
Apart from the ten meteorological disasters that have cost the world the most, the report includes another dozen events that have also caused numerous human victims and massive environmental damage, mainly in poor countries. On that list is, for example, the devastating drought that has affected more than 36 million people in East Africa, pushing many to the brink of famine. There are also the floods experienced in West Africa, with 1.3 million displaced and more than 600 dead in Nigeria, Cameroon, Mali and Niger. Or the 850,000 displaced this October by the tropical storm buttock in the Philippines and the million people who had to leave their homes also in October due to the cyclone sitrang in Bangladesh.
In the Christian Aid report, he applauds the “historic” agreement with which the last climate summit in Sharm el Sheikh was closed for the creation of the loss and damage fund, but recalls that countries must now establish how this mechanism works. “The polluter pays principle should be the cornerstone,” says this NGO in reference to the richest nations. António Guterres, Secretary General of the UN, has also proposed that governments tax the extraordinary profits that fossil fuel companies are having and that this tax serve to compensate for the damage from the climate crisis.
In addition, among the recommendations of the report is that “all governments” invest “in the energy transition towards renewable energies” to avoid further fueling global warming. But “richer countries must support countries” with fewer resources so that they can develop without fossil fuels, contrary to what Western nations have done.
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