Extreme Weather Impacts Accelerating
January 18, 2014
Earth set a new record for billion-dollar weather disasters in 2013 with 41, said insurance broker Aon Benfield in their Annual Global Climate and Catastrophe Report issued this week. Despite the record number of billion-dollar disasters, weather-related natural disaster losses (excluding earthquakes) were only slightly above average in 2013, and well below what occurred in 2012. That’s because 2013 lacked a U.S. mega-disaster like Hurricane Sandy ($65 billion in damage) or the 2012 drought ($30 billion in damage.) The most expensive global disaster of 2013 was the June flood in Central Europe, which cost $22 billion. The deadliest disaster was Super Typhoon Haiyan, which killed about 8,000 people in the Philippines. Six countries set records for most expensive weather-related disaster in their history, as tabulated by EM-DAT, the International Disaster Database, and adjusted for inflation:
Germany, June flooding, $16 billion. Previous record: $15 billion in damage from the August 2002 Elbe River floods.
Philippines, Super Typhoon Haiyan, $13 billion. Previous record: $2.2 billion, August 2013 floods near Manila.
Austria, June flooding, $4 billion. Previous record: $3.1 billion in damage from the August 2002 floods.
Czech Republic, June flooding, $1.5 billion. Previous record: $0.3 billion in damage from the August 2002 floods.
New Zealand, Jan – May Drought, $1.6 billion. Previous record: $0.3 billion, January 2001 heat wave.
Cambodia, Oct – Nov floods, $1 billion. Previous record: $0.5 billion, August 2011 flood.
Many, many examples at the link above.
Volatile weather around the world is taking farmers on a wild ride.
Too much rain in northern China damaged crops in May, three years after too little rain turned the world’s second-biggest corn producer into a net importer of the grain. Dry weather in the U.S. will cut beef output from the world’s biggest producer to the lowest level since 1994, following 2013’s bumper corn crop, which pushed America’s inventory up 30 percent. U.K. farmers couldn’t plant in muddy fields after the second-wettest year on record in 2012 dented the nation’s wheat production.
“Extreme weather events are a massive risk to agriculture,” said Peter Kendall, president of the U.K. National Farmers Union, who raises 1,600 hectares (3,953 acres) of grain crops in Bedfordshire, England. “Farmers can adapt to gradual temperature increases, but extreme weather events have the potential to completely undermine production. It could be drought, it could be too much rain, it could be extreme heat at the wrong time. It’s the extreme that does the damage.”
Farm ministers from around the world are gathering in Berlin tomorrow to discuss climate change and food production at an annual agricultural forum, with a joint statement planned after the meeting.
“There’s no question, while there’s variability and volatility from year to year, the number and the cost of catastrophic weather events is on the rise, not just in the U.S., but on a global scale,” said Robert Hartwig, an economist and president of the insurance institute. “It’s all but certain that the size and the magnitude and the frequency of disaster losses in the future is going to be larger than what we see today.”
The number of weather events and earthquakes resulting in insured losses climbed last year to 880, 40 percent higher than the average of the last 30 years, according to Munich Re, the world’s largest reinsurer.