Story at a glance

  • In 2019, 820 natural catastrophes were responsible for 9,000 fatalities across the globe.
  • Scientist Ernst Rauch and Munich Re claim that climate change is a cause, resulting in costly damage and destroyed lives.
  • The two most severe events were wildfires in Australia and typhoons in Japan.

It turns out that 2019 was an eventful year in many respects, but it saw headlines dominated by record-breaking natural disasters that came at a huge cost. 

A new report issued by German reinsurance company Munich Re states that in 2019 natural disasters cost the world $150 billion USD, some of which are attributed as effects of climate change.

Documenting 820 natural catastrophes, including wildfires, floods, cyclones and typhoons, the report said that 9,000 people globally lost their lives due to natural disasters in 2019. This is a sharp decline from 2018, which recorded 15,000 global fatalities from natural disasters. Munich Re believes it is because of improved prevention measures. 

Reviewing some of the most disastrous occurrences, Munich Re and Chief Climate and Geoscientist Ernst Rauch say that climate change is a contributing factor. 

The report discusses the “severe” bushfire seasons in Australia that stem from extremely high temperatures and dry air, which have resulted in large ecosystem losses. 

Similarly, although the report noted that California’s wildfire season was “less severe,” it still acknowledged the long-term trend of forest destruction as a result of the fires.

Speaking with CNN, Rauch stated that “What climate change does is change probabilities, so if we see an increasing probability of large losses from wildfires that indicates that climate change is contributing.”

The Insurance Council of Australia released a press statement confirming that insurance losses due to the storm of bushfires amount to $700 million

The Munich Re report also recounts the particularly devastating typhoon season recorded in Asia in 2019.

Two deadly tropical typhoons, Faxai and Hagibis, brought high wind speeds of up to 170 kph and heavy precipitation, respectively. Damages from these typhoons included many buildings and industrial site destruction and flooding. 

Together, Faxai and Hagibis had $26 billion dollars in losses. Rauch again mentions climate change as a contributing cause for the severe typhoons. 

Rauch links other catastrophic storms to climate change as well, saying, “The typhoon season shows that we must consider short-term natural climate variations as well as long-term trends due to climate change. In particular, cyclones are becoming more frequently associated with extreme precipitation, as with Hagibis in Japan in 2019 and Hurricane Harvey in 2017 in the U.S. Recognizing these changes can form the basis for further preventive measures to reduce losses.”

Published on Jan 08, 2020