Damages from weather and climate-related events
- 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.
What is the trend in the number of natural disasters and in the damage costs caused by them?
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.
Indicator specification and metadata
- Number of natural disasters
- Overall and insured losses from natural disasters
- Number of events
Policy context and targets
In April 2013 the European Commission presented the EU Adaptation Strategy Package (http://ec.europa.eu/clima/policies/adaptation/what/documentation_en.htm). This package consists of the EU Strategy on adaptation to climate change /* COM/2013/0216 final */ and a number of supporting documents. One of the objectives of the EU Adaptation Strategy is Better informed decision-making, which should occur through Bridging the knowledge gap and Further developing Climate-ADAPT as the ‘one-stop shop’ for adaptation information in Europe. Further objectives include Promoting action by Member States and Climate-proofing EU action: promoting adaptation in key vulnerable sectors. Many EU Member States have already taken action, such as by adopting national adaptation strategies, and several have also prepared action plans on climate change adaptation.
The European Commission and the European Environment Agency have developed the European Climate Adaptation Platform (Climate-ADAPT, http://climate-adapt.eea.europa.eu/) to share knowledge on observed and projected climate change and its impacts on environmental and social systems and on human health; on relevant research; on EU, national and subnational adaptation strategies and plans; and on adaptation case studies.
No targets have been specified.
Related policy documents
Climate-ADAPT: Mainstreaming adaptation in EU sector policies
Overview of EU sector policies in which mainstreaming of adaptation to climate change is ongoing or explored
Climate-ADAPT: National adaptation strategies
Overview of activities of EEA member countries in preparing, developing and implementing adaptation strategies
DG CLIMA: Adaptation to climate change
Adaptation means anticipating the adverse effects of climate change and taking appropriate action to prevent or minimise the damage they can cause, or taking advantage of opportunities that may arise. It has been shown that well planned, early adaptation action saves money and lives later. This webportal provides information on all adaptation activities of the European Commission.
EU Adaptation Strategy Package
In April 2013 the European Commission adopted an EU strategy on adaptation to climate change which has been welcomed by the EU Member States. The strategy aims to make Europe more climate-resilient. By taking a coherent approach and providing for improved coordination, it will enhance the preparedness and capacity of all governance levels to respond to the impacts of climate change.
Methodology for indicator calculation
Data is taken from the Munich Re NatCatSERVICE. Definition loss events: Events can occur in several countries; events are counted countrywise.
Methodology for gap filling
- NatCatSERVICE (2012) Munich Re NatCatSERVICE. NatCatSERVICE (2012) Munich Re NatCatSERVICE. NATHAN Risk Suite.
Data sets uncertainty
Information for Europe can be extracted from two global disaster databases, namely the EM-DAT database maintained by CRED () that places a particular focus on human fatalities and displaced and affected people, and the NatCatSERVICE database maintained by Munich Re that provides data on insured and overall losses. The ‘disaster thresholds’ for an event to be included in these global databases are as follows:
- EM-DAT: 10 or more people killed and/or 100 or more people affected and/or declaration of a state of emergency and/or call for international assistance;
- NatCatSERVICE: Small-scale property damage and/or one fatality. Additionally, Munich Re uses different classes to classify the events.
Over recent years these global databases have been harmonised, although some differences remain. During the past decades both databases have improved their reporting which means that caution is needed in formulating conclusions about trends. In addition, both databases are less suitable for analysing the impacts of smaller events or for analyses at the sub-national level. However, despite these considerations both databases serve as a good starting point for getting an overview of the impact and damage costs of disasters in Europe.
Further information on uncertainties is provided in Section 1.7 of the EEA report on Climate change, impacts, and vulnerability in Europe 2012 (http://www.eea.europa.eu/publications/climate-impacts-and-vulnerability-2012/)
No uncertainty has been specified
Direct economic losses from weather disasters
provided by Munich Re
Climate change (Primary topic)
Typology: Descriptive indicator (Type A - What is happening to the environment and to humans?)
- CSI 042
- CLIM 039
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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