'Eye-watering' costs of 2021's environmental disasters revealed - as leaders urged to make climate change a priority

·3-min read

The 10 costliest climate-related disasters of 2021 led to over £120bn worth of damage, according to a new report by Christian Aid.

The destruction was the result of weather extremes such as floods, storms, and droughts.

The figures mean that it is the sixth year in which natural catastrophes have caused more than $100bn (£77.7bn) worth of damage, all of which have occurred since 2011.

The estimates are likely to be an underestimate of the true costs of the disasters. They only account for insured losses, so the real price is likely to be much higher. Many of the disasters also led to a significant loss of life.

Here are the five costliest disasters of 2021:

1. Hurricane Ida, USA and the Caribbean - £49bn

In late August, this Category 4 hurricane hit the Caribbean before making landfall in the US in Louisiana. It then travelled through several southern states and up the eastern seaboard.

The storm caused an estimated £49bn worth of damage and claimed the lives of 95 people in the US.

2. European floods - £33bn

In July, heavy rainfall caused flash flooding in parts of Europe.

Germany, France, the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg all saw flooding as rivers burst their banks after heavy summer downpours.

It resulted in £33bn in insurance losses and 242 deaths.

3. Texas ice storm, USA - £17.2bn

In February, freezing temperatures struck Texas, leading to the largest blackouts in the US for almost 20 years.

Houston recorded its second lowest-ever temperature, -11C (12.2F), as the cold led to increased energy demand that overwhelmed the grid.

The storm also caused widespread power outages in Mexico, high levels of snowfall across much of the US, and even led to tornadoes being reported in Florida.

The total insurance damage has been estimated at £17.2bn.

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4. Henan floods, China - £13.3bn

Rainfall in mid-July led to flooding in China's Henan Province.

More than 800,000 people were evacuated, with more than 14 million people thought to have been affected by the flooding across the region.

More than 300 people are believed to have died as a result of the disaster, which left behind £13.3bn worth of damage.

5. British Columbia floods, Canada - £5.6bn

Rainfall in western Canada in November led to flooding in British Columbia.

Bridges were washed away as rivers burst their banks and homes were flooded. It came less than six months after the same province experienced a "heat dome" that led to record temperatures and hundreds of deaths.

The floods caused an estimated £5.6bn of damage.

The list is biased towards richer nations, where insurance claims are likely to be higher, although the human cost of disasters is often worse in developing countries.

Floods in South Sudan displaced 850,00 people for example, despite not making the list of the costliest disasters.

Dr Kat Kramer, lead author of the report, said: "The costs of climate change have been grave this year, both in terms of eye-watering financial losses but also in the death and displacement of people around the world."

She also reflected on the fact that "the environment" was the issue most cited by respondents when asked what the UK government's new year's resolution should focus on, in a poll conducted to accompany the report.

"It's striking that, despite being in the middle of a pandemic, the public view this issue as a greater policy priority than both healthcare and the economy," said Dr Kramer.

"If the prime minister wants to build on the legacy of COP26 he needs to ensure climate change is a government priority in 2022."

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