Data Climate crisis

Climate change cost Europeans €446 billions over the last 40 years

Climate change related extreme events have seriously damaged the countries of the European Economic Area, accounting for loss of almost 3 percent of GDP for each country per year.

Published on 12 April 2021 at 12:43

Natural hazards can pose a serious threat to human life, both directly and indirectly. In recent years, climate change has made these events more extreme, profoundly worsening their consequences. According to evidence gathered in a report published by the European Environment Agency, extreme events caused by climate change are also seriously damaging the economies of the European Economic Area (EEA).

The report, which analyses the economic losses caused by extreme events related to climate change, highlights how, from 1980 to 2019, the EEA member states have lost a total of 446 billions of euros over the last 39 years. To put this number in a different perspective, the EEA has lost, on average, 11.1 billions of euros per year, equal to nearly 3 percent of the gross domestic product of the countries analysed. The economic losses can vary greatly from one year to another, as a very small number (3 percent) of climate related events is responsible for more than 60 percent of the total losses. These events have been divided in three categories: meteorological events (storms), hydrological events (floods and mass movements) and climatological events (heatwaves, cold waves, droughts and forest fires).


Not every country was affected in the same way, with some registering higher losses than others. If we look at the economic losses in absolute terms, the five countries that have been affected the most are Germany, with 107,445 millions of euros lost from 1980 to 2019, followed by Italy (72,534), France (67,524), United Kingdom (53,605) and Spain (45,329).

As stated at the beginning, natural hazards can indirectly affect our lives, so it can be interesting to see what is the evidence as to what amounts the loss for each of the countries’ examined citizens. If we take the economic losses suffered by each country, and split them among their citizens, the chart of the countries most damaged changes greatly. The five countries who have lost most euros per capita, due to climate related extreme events are Switzerland, with each citizen losing 2,627 euros each, followed by Luxembourg (2,118), Denmark (2,016), Austria (1,911) and then Germany (1,329).

The first graph shows how economic damages caused by climate change related extreme events, can fluctuate greatly from one year to another, but an increasing trend is nonetheless clearly observable. The effects of climate change cannot be ignored anymore, a concern that is shared by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a United Nations agency who published a report in 2013, in which it predicts that climate related extreme events will become more and more commonplace around the world, affecting several sectors and leading to greater economic losses, as stated in another IPCC report.

This article is a partnership with the European Data Journalism Network.


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