Damages from weather and climate-related events (CLIM 039) - Assessment published Nov 2012
Climate change (Primary topic)
Typology: Descriptive indicator (Type A - What is happening to the environment and to humans?)
- CLIM 039
Key policy question: What is the trend in the number of natural disasters and in the damage costs caused by them?
- Hydro-meteorological events (storms, floods, and landslides) account for 64 % of the reported damages due to natural disasters in Europe since 1980; climatological events (extreme temperatures; droughts and forest fires) account for another 20 %.
- Overall damages from extreme weather events have increased from EUR 9 billion in the 1980s to more than EUR 13 billion in the 2000s (inflation-corrected).
- The observed damage increase is primarily due to increases in population, economic wealth and human activities in hazard-prone areas and to better reporting.
- It is currently difficult to determine accurately the proportion of damage costs that are attributable to climate change. The contribution of climate change to the damage costs from natural disasters is expected to increase due to the projected changes in the intensity and frequency of extreme weather events.
According to Munich Re [i] , the number of disasters in EEA member countries shows an upward trend since 1980 (see Figure 1). Whereas the number and impacts of weather and climate-related events increased considerably between 1980 and 2011, the number of geophysical hazards appeared to remain more stable. Hydro-meteorological hazards account for about 75 % of natural disasters that have occurred in Europe since 1980 and around 64 % of the damage costs. There is an increasing trend of overall average economic losses by weather events for EEA member countries from EUR 9 billion in the 1980s to more than EUR 13 billion in the 2000s (values adjusted to 2011 inflation). Similar types of trends for Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries were presented in a recent report [ii].
Between 1980 and 2011, the economic toll of natural disasters in the whole of Europe approached EUR 445 billion in 2011 values. About half of all losses can be attributed to a few large events such as storms like Lothar in 1999, Kyrill in 2007 and Xynthia in 2010, and the floods of central Europe in 2002 and in the UK in 2007. More than two thirds of economic losses by natural disasters between 1980 and 2011 were caused by floods and storms, as these tend to affect large areas.
One important question is to what extent the observed increase in overall losses during recent decades is attributable to changing climatic conditions rather than other factors. According to [iii], increasing exposure of people and economic assets has been the major cause of long-term increases in economic losses from weather- and climate-related disasters. Long-term trends in economic disaster losses adjusted for wealth and population increases have not been attributed to climate change, but a role for climate change has not been excluded.
Available studies for Europe [iv] on river floods and storms, suggest that increased losses are primarily due to socio-economic changes and increasing exposed elements due to changes in population and economic wealth, and activities in hazard-prone areas. Upward trends in losses can also be explained to a certain extent by better reporting. The study mentioned above [v] presents similar conclusions. By normalisation of disaster trends, meaning correcting for changes in wealth and/or population, trend patterns for economic losses and people affected appear stable for OECD countries.
Although it is currently difficult to determine accurately the proportion of losses that are attributable to climate change [vi], in view of current and projected climate change impacts and risks its contribution to losses is expected to increase.
Several studies have analysed the costs of projected climate change impacts in Europe for various sectors. However, these studies do not provide specific estimates for projected damage costs for weather and climate-related disasters, since reliable projections for weather and climate-related extreme events are not available.
[i] NatCatSERVICE, „Munich Re NatCatSERVICE“, NATHAN Risk Suite, 2012, http://www.munichre.com/en/reinsurance/business/non-life/georisks/nathan/default.aspx.
[ii] Hans Visser et al., Weather-related disasters: past, present and future PBL publication (Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency, 2012), http://www.pbl.nl/sites/default/files/cms/publicaties/PBL_2012_Weather%20Disasters_555076001.pdf.
[iii] IPCC, Managing the Risks of Extreme Events and Disasters to Advance Climate Change Adaptation. Special Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, ed. C. B. Field et al. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012), http://ipcc-wg2.gov/SREX/report/.
[iv] J.I. Barredo, „Normalised flood losses in Europe: 1970–2006“, Natural Hazards and Earth System Sciences 9 (Februar 9, 2009): 97–104, doi:10.5194/nhess-9-97-2009; J. I. Barredo, „No upward trend in normalised windstorm losses in Europe: 1970–2008“, Natural Hazards and Earth System Science 10, Nr. 1 (Januar 15, 2010): 97–104, doi:10.5194/nhess-10-97-2010.
[v] Visser et al., Weather-related disasters: past, present and future.
[vi] EEA, The European environment: State and outlook 2010: Thematic assessment – Understanding Climate Change (European Environment Agency, 2010), http://www.eea.europa.eu/soer/europe/understanding-climate-change; EEA, Impacts of Europe’s changing climate - 2008 indicator-based assessment. Joint EEA-JRC-WHO report EEA Report (Copenhagen: European Environment Agency, September 29, 2008), http://www.eea.europa.eu/publications/eea_report_2008_4.
Direct economic losses from weather disasters
provided by Munich Re
More information about this indicator
See this indicator specification for more details.
Contacts and ownership
EEA Contact InfoHans-Martin Füssel
EEA Management Plan2012 2.0.1 (note: EEA internal system)
Frequency of updates
For references, please go to www.eea.europa.eu/soer or scan the QR code.
This briefing is part of the EEA's report The European Environment - State and Outlook 2015. The EEA is an official agency of the EU, tasked with providing information on Europe’s environment.
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