Climate change: Damage from natural disasters increased sharply in 2021

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Natural disasters caused significantly higher losses worldwide in 2021 than in the two previous years. Ernst Rauch, who is responsible for climate and geosciences at reinsurance company Munich Re, says the disaster statistics are conspicuous because some of the extreme weather events as a result of climate change are likely to occur more frequently or are more severe. These include severe storms in the USA, even in the winter half-year, or heavy rain with floods in Europe.

Overall, storms, floods, forest fires and earthquakes caused 2021 according to preliminary figures from Munich Re Total losses of $ 280 billion, of which approximately $ 120 billion was insured.

The total losses from natural disasters were last year the fourth highest so far, the record year was 2011 with 355 billion US dollars; In 2020, natural catastrophe losses totaled $ 210 billion. Almost 10,000 people were killed in natural disasters in 2021. The death rate is comparable to that of previous years.

The costliest natural disaster of 2021 was Hurricane Ida, which landed 90 kilometers south of New Orleans on August 29 with winds of around 150 mph. It caused total losses of $ 65 billion, of which $ 36 billion was insured.

In Europe, especially in western Germany, torrential rains triggered exceptionally severe floods in July 2021. In the regions affected, the precipitation caused by the “Bernd” low-pressure system was the highest in over a hundred years. More than 220 people were killed. The total losses amounted to 54 billion US dollars, of which 40 billion US dollars were in Germany. It is the most expensive natural disaster in Germany and Europe to date.

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According to Munich-Res chief climate scientist Rauch, it can be assumed that the proportion of severe storms and storms with extreme precipitation will increase due to climate change. Even if events cannot be automatically attributed to climate change, analysis of changes over decades provides plausible indications of a connection with the warming of the atmosphere and the oceans.

In August 2021, researchers stated that the heavy rain and the subsequent floods in North Rhine-Westphalia and Rhineland-Palatinate from July 12 to 15 were a result of climate change. The higher global average temperature has increased the likelihood of such events.


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