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LONDON: December 27, 2018. A report from Christian Aid says 14 climate change-related events last year cost a minimum of US$60 billion while “killing, injuring and displacing millions”.

The most financially expensive disasters identified by the report were Hurricanes Florence and Michael, which hit the US and parts of Central America and the Caribbean, causing damage initially estimated at US$17 billion and US$15 billion respectively.

Four of the 14 events cost more than US$7 billion each and are likely to be underestimates as in some cases they include only insured losses, says the aid agency.

MSF picture IndonesiaWhile the report focuses on the financial cost of climate change-driven extreme weather events, in many developing countries it says the cost to vulnerable communities is even higher due to slow-onset droughts, weather change and sea encroachment.

Other disasters last year covered by the report include a drought in Argentina that slashed soybean and corn crops, at a cost of US$6 billion, and helped tip the country into recession; floods in Kerala, India that killed 500 people and forced more than a million from their homes; floods in Japan that killed 230 people followed by record-breaking heat and then Typhoon Jebi, the most powerful storm to hit the country for 25 years; Typhoon Mangkhut in the Philippines and China that killed 133 people and destroyed 10,000 homes; drought in Cape Town, South Africa that nearly led authorities to shut off the water supply to 75 percent of the city; and wildfires in California including the ‘Camp Fire’ that killed 85 people and was the deadliest and most destructive in the state’s history.

“Climate change is something still often talked about as a future problem, not least because we know the consequences of the warming climate are so devastating and don’t want to face up to what is already happening,” explained Christian Aid’s Global Climate lead Kat Kramer. “The great injustice of climate breakdown is that the people that suffer first and worst, are the world’s poor that have done the least to contribute to the crisis.

“History will judge us on how we act now, as there is still a window of opportunity to avert more suffering,” she added.

Michael Mann, professor of Atmospheric Science at Penn State University commented: “The impacts of climate change are no longer subtle. We are seeing them play out now, on our television screens, newspaper headlines and social media feeds. The unprecedented floods, droughts, heat waves, wildfires and superstorms we’ve seen in recent years - they are the face of climate change. The world's weather is becoming more extreme before our eyes - the only thing that can stop this destructive trend from escalating is a rapid fall in carbon emissions."

Indonesia’s third major natural disaster in six months has claimed the lives of at least 429 people and injured 1,485 after a tsunami hit coastal areas along the Sunda Strait on December 22. With at least 16,082 people displaced and 154 missing in the five districts affected by the tsunami, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has deployed teams to provide local health support. (Picture courtesy MSF.)


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