The 10 most expensive weather disasters this year caused more than $170bn in damage, $20bn more than in 2020, a British aid group has found.
Christian Aid said the upward trend reflects the effects of manmade climate change and added that the 10 disasters in question also killed at least 1,075 people and displaced 1.3 million.
Each year, the aid group calculates the cost of weather incidents like flooding, fires and heatwaves according to insurance claims. In 2020, it found the world’s 10 costliest weather disasters caused $150bn in damage, making this year’s total an increase of 13%.
The most expensive disaster in 2021 was Hurricane Ida, which lashed the eastern United States and caused around $65bn in damage. After crashing into Louisiana at the end of August, it made its way northward and caused extensive flooding in New York City and the surrounding area.
Spectacular and deadly flooding in Germany and Belgium in July was next on the list at $43bn in losses.
A cold snap and winter storm in Texas that took out the vast state’s power grid cost $23bn, followed by flooding in China’s Henan province in July that cost an estimated $17.6bn.
Other disasters costing several billion dollars include flooding in Canada, a late spring freeze in France that damaged vineyards, and a cyclone in India and Bangladesh in May.
The report acknowledged its evaluation mainly covers disasters in rich countries where infrastructure is better insured and that the financial toll of disasters on poor countries is often incalculable.
It gave the example of South Sudan, where flooding affected around 800,000 people.
“Some of the most devastating extreme weather events in 2021 hit poorer nations, which have contributed little to causing climate change,” Christian Aid noted.
In mid-December, the world’s biggest reinsurer, Swiss Re, estimated natural catastrophes and extreme weather events caused around $250bn in damage this year.
It said the total represented a 24% increase over last year and that the cost to the insurance industry alone was the fourth highest since 1970.