BY Peter Diamond | January 3 | comments icon 0 COMMENTS     print icon print


Calls for ‘urgent’ action as global climate crisis soars

Pope prays for Philippines victims as new report cites scale of problem

Extreme weather, driven by climate change, hit every populated continent in 2019, killing, injuring and displacing millions and causing billions of dollars of economic damage, according to a new report by Christian Aid.

The report comes as Pope Francis prayed for victims of Typhoon Phanfone which struck the Philippines on Christmas Day affecting more than two million people and killing at least 50 people.

The report, titled Counting the Cost 2019: a year of climate breakdown, identifies 15 of the most destructive droughts, floods, fires, typhoons and cyclones of 2019, each of which caused damage of over $1billion.

Seven of the events cost more than $10billion each. According to the report the figures are likely to be underestimates – in some cases they include only insured losses and do not take into account the costs of lost productivity and uninsured losses.


While the report focuses on the financial cost of climate change-driven extreme weather events, in many developing countries the human cost of climate change to vulnerable communities is even higher than the financial cost, and there are many slow-onset droughts, weather change and sea encroachment that are progressively and devastatingly impacting millions of people worldwide.

The most financially costly disasters identified by the report were wildfires in California, which caused $25billion in damage, followed by Typhoon Hagibis in Japan ($15bn) and floods in the American mid-west ($12.5bn) and China ($12bn).

The events with the greatest loss of life were floods in Northern India which killed 1,900 and Cyclone Idai which killed 1,300.

All of these billion-dollar disasters are linked with human-caused climate change. In some cases scientific studies have shown that climate change made the particular event more likely or stronger, for example with Cyclone Idai in Africa and floods in India and the United States.

In other cases, the event was the result of shifts in weather patterns—like higher temperatures and reduced rainfall that made fires more likely or warmer water temperatures that supercharged tropical storms – that are themselves consequences of climate change.

Report co-author, Dr Kat Kramer, Christian Aid’s Global Climate Lead, said: “2020 is going to be a huge year for how the world responds to the growing climate crisis. We have the biggest summit since the Paris agreement was signed five years ago, taking place in Glasgow, where countries must commit to further cut their emissions in line with the 1.5C temperature limit, and boost funding for poor countries suffering from the kind of impacts seen in this report.

“Last year emissions continued to rise, so it’s essential that nations prepare these new and enhanced pledges for action to the Paris agreement as soon as possible. That will ensure the world responds urgently to the warnings of scientists, as well as the demands from school children around the globe who are horrified at the kind of world they are being forced to inherit.”

Pope’s prayers

Last week Pope Francis prayed for the victims of Typhoon Phanfone before inviting the faithful gathered in St Peter’s Square to recite the St Stephen’s Day Angelus, as he assured them of his own prayers, ‘for the numerous victims, for the wounded and for their families.’

After the prayers, Pope Francis said: “I join in the suffering that has struck the dear people of the Philippines due to Typhoon Phanfone.”

Typhoon Phanfone struck the central Philippines on Christmas Day, killing at least 50 people. Houses were uprooted and areas popular with tourists for their paradise beaches, were devastated.

The number of people missing is still not known, while around 60,000 have been evacuated. In total, more than 378,000 houses were damaged and 143 people were injured according to the Philippine National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council.

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