By Paul Homewood
h/t Robin Guenier
The absurd Matt McGrath advertises the latest highly politicised Christian Aid report on 2020’s “extreme” weather:
The world continued to pay a very high price for extreme weather in 2020, according to a report from the charity Christian Aid.
Against a backdrop of climate change, its study lists 10 events that saw thousands of lives lost and major insurance costs.
Six of the events took place in Asia, with floods in China and India causing damages of more than $40bn.
In the US, record hurricanes and wildfires caused some $60bn in losses.
While the world has been struggling to get to grips with the coronavirus pandemic, millions of people have also had to cope with the impacts of extreme weather events.
Christian Aid’s list of ten storms, floods and fires all cost at least $1.5bn – with nine of the 10 costing at least $5bn.
An unusually rainy monsoon season was associated with some of the most damaging storms in Asia, where some of the biggest losses were. Over a period of months, heavy flooding in India saw more than 2,000 deaths with millions of people displaced from their homes.
The value of the insured losses is estimated at $10bn.
China suffered even greater financial damage from flooding, running to around $32bn between June and October this year. The loss of life from these events was much smaller than in India.
While these were slow-moving disasters, some events did enormous damage in a short period of time.
Cyclone Amphan struck the Bay of Bengal in May and caused losses estimated at $13bn in just a few days.
"We saw record temperatures in the Arabian Sea and Bay of Bengal, straddling between 30C-33C," said Dr Roxy Mathew Koll, a climate scientist at the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology in Pune.
"These high temperatures had the characteristics of marine heat waves that might have led to the rapid intensification of the pre-monsoon cyclones Amphan and Nisarga," he said in a comment on the Christian Aid study.
"Amphan was one of the strongest cyclones ever recorded in the Bay of Bengal during the pre-monsoon season."
Africa was also on the receiving end of extreme events, with massive locust swarms ruining crops and vegetation to the tune of $8.5bn.
Europe also saw significant impacts when Storm Ciara swept through Ireland, the UK and several other countries in February.
It resulted in 14 lives being lost and damages of $2.7bn.
Christian Aid stress that these figures for financial costs are likely an underestimate as they are based only on insured losses.
Richer countries have more valuable properties, and on the whole suffer greater financial penalties from extreme events.
"Just like 2019 before it, 2020 has been full of disastrous extremes," said Dr Sarah Perkins-Kirkpatrick, from the Climate Change Research Centre at the University of New South Wales in Australia.
"We have seen all this with a 1C of global average temperature rise, highlighting the sensitive relationship between average conditions and extremes."
"Ultimately, the impacts of climate change will be felt via the extremes, and not averaged changes."
"Unfortunately, we can expect more years to look like 2020 – and worse – as global temperatures creep higher."
While 2021 is likely to bring a similar story of losses from extreme events, there is some sense of optimism that political leaders may be on the brink of taking steps that might help the world avoid the worst excesses of rising temperatures.
"It is vital that 2021 ushers in a new era of activity to turn this climate change tide," said report author, Dr Kat Kramer, from Christian Aid.
"With President-elect Biden in the White House, social movements across the world calling for urgent action, post-Covid green recovery investment and a crucial UN climate summit hosted by the UK, there is a major opportunity for countries to put us on a path to a safe future."
Christian Aid focus mainly on economic damage, without providing any context.
Yet if you look at the number of deaths from their top ten, you only get 3471. This is a tiny number, even by recent experience. In years past, hundreds of thousands of deaths were commonplace every year:
Let’s look at some of McGrath’s highlights in more detail:
1) India’s Monsoon
In fact, this year’s monsoon rainfall was officially regarded as “normal” in India itself:
As a result of above average rainfall, India has just had a bumper harvest:
Covid-19 might have hit all the economic sectors badly, but luck is favouring Indian agriculture sector this year as there has been 95 per cent equal distribution of rainfall all over the country. Along with historic sowing, and timely rains agricultural experts are predicting bumper crop this year.
“I, in my lifetime, have never seen so many factoring favouring agriculture,” said former director general of Indian Council for Agriculture Mangla Rai. “I do not remember ever before monsoon was so proportionately distributed, well precipitated and timely. Rains poured when it needed the most except some areas of Himachal Pradesh and Jammu & Kashmir region. But these areas are negligible. Lastly, this year sowing areas broke all records~ 1,062.93 lakh hectares,” former DG ICAR said.
“There is no doubt we are getting wonderful reports of sowing from all parts of the country and if all goes well, this year will have bumper crops,” said Shiraj Hussain, former Union agriculture secretary.
2) Floods in China
Christian Aid say that these resulted in 278 deaths. In contrast, an estimated 4 million may have died in the floods of 1931 there.
Yangtse Floods of 1931
If McGrath bothered to take his head out of where the sun does not shine, he would know that Chinese history is littered with devastating floods.
3) Bangladesh Cyclone
Again, the death toll was remarkably low at 128, when compared with historical cyclones.
But, as the BBC’s own India Correspondent reported at the time, the Bay of Bengal is notorious for deadly cyclones:
The Bay of Bengal, notes historian Sunil Amrith, is an "expanse of tropical water: still and blue in the calm of January winter, or raging and turbid at the peak of the summer rains".
The largest bay in the world – 500 million people live on the coastal rim that surrounds it – is also the site of the majority of the deadliest tropical cyclones in world history.
According to a list maintained by Weather Underground, 26 of the 35 deadliest tropical cyclones in recorded have occurred here.
Indeed Bengal has had a charmed life as far as powerful cyclones are concerned in recent years, as Amphan was the first super cyclone since thousands died in Odisha in 1999.
4) Locusts in Africa
The plague of locusts followed some welcome heavy rainfall. Usually, of course, the real problem in East Africa is drought. Sadly the weather all too frequently switches from feast to famine there.
What we can say though is that cereal production in East Africa has been rising rapidly since the turn of the century “despite climate change”, although data for this year is obviously not available yet.
One might have though Christian Aid would welcome this fact!
5) Storm Ciara
McGrath really must be scraping the bottom of the barrel, if he has to resort to this common-or-garden winter storm.
Despite widespread media hype about “Storm of the Century”, Ciara typically brought gusts of only between 50 and 60mph to inland sites.
Even the Met Office had to admit that, in terms of gusts, Ciara was only the most significant storm since February 2017:
via NOT A LOT OF PEOPLE KNOW THAT
December 28, 2020 at 08:12AM