Essay by Eric Worrall
AFR vaguely claims that climate change is making weather related disasters worse – but make no attempt to present evidence to back this claim.
These 10 climate disasters cost $1.5 trillion in just five years
Nov 22, 2022 – 8.58am
Climate change has raised the cost of natural disasters, as rising sea levels and drought increase the frequency and severity of flooding and wildfires, insurers and risk modelling experts say.
The cost of the 10 most expensive events of the last decade adds up to more than $US1 trillion ($1.5 trillion). All of them occurred in the last five years.
The biggest losses are usually in richer countries with more expensive assets – the 2019-2020 bushfires in Australia are third on the list with a cost of $US110 billion ($167 billion). But developing countries such as Pakistan, which suffered flooding this year that cost an estimated $US40 billion also bear the brunt of damaging weather. The list was provided to Reuters by risk modelling firm RMS.
The 10 “climate disasters”:
- California wildfires (2017 to 2018) – 3 fires, $180 billion, $148.5 billion, $328.5 billion, 143 deaths.
- Atlantic hurricanes Harvey $125 billion (88 deaths), Irma $65 billion (134 deaths), Maria $107 billion (4600 deaths) (August to September 2017)
- Aussie bushfires 2019-20 – $110 billion (34 deaths)
- Hurricane Ian – $75 billion (101 deaths)
- Hurricane Ida – $75 billion (107 deaths)
- German / Belgian Floods 2021 $40 billion (230 deaths)
- Pakistan floods 2022: $40 billion (1717 deaths)
- Japan Typhoons 2019 $26.1 billion (85 deaths)
- European heatwave 2022 €10 billion (1500 deaths)
- US / Canada Heatwave 2021 $8.9 billion (1400 deaths)
Interestingly AFR forgot to include cold related deaths, which far outnumber heat related deaths. For example, in 2021 63,000 people died from cold in Britain. It wouldn’t take much global warming to save 10s of thousands of lives every winter, if that warming delivered milder winters – and that is just in Britain.
AFR also fail to mention the benefits of our energy rich fossil fuel powered civilisation, like better communications and satellite weather warnings which allow people to be evacuated before major storms strike, and stronger, more storm-resistant homes, which have massively reduced deaths from natural disasters over the last century (see the graph at the top of the page).
Have disaster costs increased? By some metrics yes, but a naive measure of disaster costs does not account for rising population, rising wealth (more expensive houses in the path of disasters), and other issues such as pervasive poor forestry management in recent decades contributing to the ferocity of forest fires. A more detailed discussion of disaster costs is available here. My impression, once your account for such factors, there is no evidence climate change is contributing to the cost of disasters.
Regardless of whether you agree with my claims on disaster costs or the other points I made, my biggest criticism of the AFR article is they simply didn’t present their own analysis. How much of that $1.5 trillion do they blame on climate change, vs natural storms which would have happened anyway? It is almost as if they want readers to assume ALL the costs are climate related, which would be an utter absurdity.
Next time AFR, try informing your readers by providing some context.
via Watts Up With That?
November 23, 2022