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The ten most costly climate change disasters of 2018

The drought in Australia made Christian Aid's list of the 10 most destructive extreme weather events driven by climate change. Source: AAP

A report has identified ten of the most destructive droughts, floods, fires, heatwaves, typhoons and hurricanes of 2018.

A report by London-based charity Christian Aid has examined the 10 most destructive weather events of 2018.

Each event alone cost over US$1 billion, with four events costing more than $7 billion each, according to the 'Counting the Cost: a year of climate breakdown' report.

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The figures only included insured losses - and would be higher if uninsured losses and the cost of lost productivity had been counted.

Hurricanes Florence and Michael in the US were the costliest disasters.

The Australian drought was the most sustained event throughout the year at an estimated cost of between $5.8 billion and $9 billion.

Climate change links

The report said climate change meant the disasters were more severe and extreme.

"All of these disasters are linked with human-caused climate change.

"In some cases, scientific studies have shown that climate change made the particular event more likely or stronger, for example with warmer oceans supercharging tropical storms.

"In other cases, the event was the result of shifts in weather patterns - like higher temperatures and reduced rainfall that made fires more likely - that are themselves consequences of climate change."

The report noted but did not calculate, the cost of weather events on developing nations. 

"In many developing countries the human cost of climate change to vulnerable communities is much higher than the financial cost, and there are many slow-onset droughts, weather change and sea encroachment that are progressively and devastatingly impacting millions of people worldwide."

Pacific Island leaders used the UN climate talks in December to call for developed nations to contribute more funds to developed nations to combat the immediate climate change impacts on their nation. 

Vanuatu’s foreign minister, Ralph Regenvanu, said his country lost 64 per cent of its economy after the impact of a recent category-five cyclone.

“It pains me deeply to have watched the people of the United States and other developed countries across the globe suffering the devastating impacts of climate-induced tragedies, while their professional negotiators are here at COP24 putting red lines through any mention of loss and damage in the Paris guidelines and square brackets around any possibility for truthfully and accurately reporting progress against humanity’s most existential threat,” he said. 

2019 expected to be hotter

The report said the impact of the natural weather phenomenon of El Niño is expected to mean 2019 is even hotter.

The World Meteorological Organization declared 2018 the fourth-hottest year on record, with average global temperatures nearly 1 degree Celsius above the pre-industrial average.

The charity urged countries to increase the pace of efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions under the Paris deal so that 2018 is not considered a "mild year" in the future.

"Current plans for controlling emissions put the world on course for catastrophic warming by the end of the century, with the planet heating three to five times as much as it has already," the report said.

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By the year's end, greenhouse gas levels are forecast to rise 2.7 per cent to reach a record high of 37.1 billion tonnes, according to a report by the Global Carbon Project released earlier this month.

A surge in the use of fossil fuels is behind the rise.

The UN climate panel, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, in October said the world had only 12 years to opt for 1.5 degrees Celsius of global warming. But warned that such a course would require "rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society".

Financial losses from natural disasters in 2017 came to $330 billion, according to insurer Munich Re of Germany.

In the United States alone, climate change is forecast to shrink the country's economy by 10 per cent by the end of the century.

The 10 events that cost more than $1 billion each:

- Hurricane Florence ($17 billion) and Hurricane Michael ($15 billion)

- Fires in California ($9-13 billion)

- Drought in Europe ($7.5 billion)

- Floods in Japan ($9.3-12.5 billion)

- Drought in Argentina ($6 billion)

- Floods in China ($9.3 billion)

- Drought in Australia ($5.8-9 billion)

- Floods in Kerala, India ($3.7 billion)

- Drought in Cape Town, South Africa ($1-2 billion)

- Typhoon Mangkhut in Phillippines and China ($1-2 billion)

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