The world’s most devastating climate catastrophes of 2021 racked up about $170 billion in insured losses, according to a report from the disaster relief group Christian Aid published Monday.
The estimate was based on the cost of the 10 largest natural disasters worldwide, two of which occurred in the U.S., over the last 12 months, according to the report. The true cost of the storms is much higher than the reported estimate since Christian Aid only measured insured losses and several of the events took place in developing nations where insurance is rare.
“The costs of climate change have been grave this year, both in terms of eyewatering financial losses but also in the death and displacement of people around the world,” Kat Kramer, the group’s climate policy director, said in a statement. “Be it storms and floods in some of the world’s richest countries or droughts and heatwaves in some of the poorest, the climate crisis hit hard in 2021.”
“While it was good to see some progress made at the COP26 summit, it is clear that the world is not on track to ensure a safe and prosperous world,” she said.
The cost of the year’s climate disasters represented a nearly 21% increase compared to 2020 when such catastrophes cost around $140.9 billion in insured damages.
Total damages reported in 2021 were driven up by Hurricane Ida — the storm that ripped through the east coast of the U.S. at the end of August — which cost Americans a whopping $65 billion, the report estimated. The costliest climate event in 2020 was the entire U.S. hurricane season that cost about $40 billion.
Both annual reports highlighted events with lower financial impacts but high human devastation. For example, floods in South Sudan and a river drought in South America have displaced and affected hundreds of thousands or millions this year.
“This report gives a sense of the climate suffering which has taken place around the world in 2021,” said Power Shift Africa Director Mohamed Adow. “It’s a powerful reminder that the atmosphere will not wait for us to deal with the Covid pandemic.”
Christian Aid has blamed major storms on climate change for years. International Centre for Climate Change & Development Director Saleemul Huq said 2018 “proved to be a tipping point” regarding climate change after Christian Aid’s report was released that year.
However, global climate-related deaths have plummeted over the last several decades, according to The Wall Street Journal. About 500,000 people died annually from climate disasters 100 years ago compared to the 14,000 killed in 2020.