Experts: Horn of Africa drought among top 2022 climate disasters

Thursday December 29 2022
cop27 meeting

Members of civil society and delegates attending the COP27 hold a press conference on fossil fuels on November 18, 2022, at Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt. PHOTO | FRANCIS MUREITHI | NMG


Climate experts have found that globally, the ten most financially costly climate events of 2022 in Africa and around the world all had an impact of $3 billion or more.

The new findings come from a new report by Christian Aid dubbed "Counting the cost 2022: A year of climate breakdown," which identifies 20 of the most destructive climate disasters of the year.

According to the findings of the report, the 20  most expensive climate disasters of the year include the Horn of Africa drought, Storm Eunice in  Europe, East Australia flooding, KwaZulu-Natal and Eastern Cape floods, Pakistan floods, China floods, European drought, Hurricane Fiona in the  Caribbean and Canada, Hurricane Ian in Cuba and  USA, Brazil drought, China drought, Malaysian floods, back-to-back storms in Southeast Africa, Tierra del Fuego wildfire in  Chile, Petropolis and  Brazil floods,  Arctic and Antarctic heatwaves, India & Pakistan heatwave, West Africa floods 18, Cyclone Sitrang in Bangladesh as well as Tropical Storm Nalgae in the  Philippines.

Experts highlighted that the floods in South Africa killed more than 450 people, displaced 40,000 and cost more than $3 billion while the floods that submerged parts of Pakistan in June displaced seven million people and caused more than $30 billion in estimated damages, with only $5.6 billion covered by insurance. Hurricane Ian which struck the US and Cuba in September cost $100 billion.

Most of these estimates are based only on insured losses, meaning the true financial costs are likely to be even higher, while the human costs are often uncounted.

Among them is Hurricane Ian which struck the US and Cuba in September costing $100 billion and displacing 40,000 people, the drought in Europe heatwave in Europe cost $20 billion while floods in Pakistan killed more than 1,700 people, displaced a further seven million, and according to World Bank estimates caused $30 billion in economic damage.


Due to the difficulty of obtaining insurance, only $5.6 billion of these losses were covered,” the findings show.

While the report focuses on financial costs, which are usually higher in richer countries because they have higher property values and can afford insurance, some of the most devastating extreme weather events in 2022 hit poorer nations, which have contributed little to causing the climate crisis and have the fewest buffers with which to withstand shocks.

In the report, the second list of 10 climate disasters highlights some of these other climate events of 2022 which don’t make the list of insured losses but were just as damaging to communities or posed worrying future threats such as the Arctic and Antarctic heatwaves. 

Speaking to the Nation in an exclusive interview, Mr Mohamed Adow, director of Nairobi-based energy and climate think-tank Power Shift Africa said that it’s sobering to see the full extent of climate breakdown the world has suffered in 2022 and whether it is cyclones and floods or droughts and heatwaves, it is clear that the crisis is getting worse. 

"East Africa is no stranger to the devastating cost of climate change this year. The drought that is ravaging our region is destroying lives and livelihoods and shows the urgent need for action to cut the carbon emissions which are driving the climate crisis," said Mr. Adow.

This report shows that it's not only Africa that is feeling the pain but almost every corner of the world. If ever there was an issue that should unite the world, this is it.

Read: Let us all create value, empower society

"We need to see countries taking action to curb emissions, boost support for the vulnerable and ensure a prosperous future for the whole world,” Mr Adow highlighted while observing that the report shows why urgent climate action is so vital in 2023. 

“We need to see the phasing out of fossil fuels, an acceleration of renewable energy and greater support for the vulnerable. Here in Africa, we are seeing the suffering that climate change is causing to those that have done the least to cause it."

The director is of the view that 2023 needs to be the year we all wake up and start to put the world on the right track.

"The good news is that East Africa has the potential to be a renewable energy superpower and we're already seeing that leadership emerging. We now need to see African countries come together to accelerate the transition to clean energy and encourage other countries to follow suit,” he told the Nation while reminding that the need for the recently created loss and damage fund has never been clearer.

“The agreement at COP27 was a major step forward but we now need to see the details of how it will be funded, how damage will be assessed and how communities can access it. There will be a committee to work out these details and we need to see progress in 2023."

Like Mr Adow, this is why Christian Aid is also calling on world leaders to decide how the loss and damage fund agreed upon at the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP27) in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt last month will be managed and get money flowing into it.

These extreme events highlight the need for more urgent climate action. They underline the importance of the loss and damage fund recently agreed upon at COP27 to provide financial support to people in developing countries who have suffered huge losses due to a climate crisis they have not caused.

Read Also: Bittersweet win for vulnerable nations at COP27

The experts further remind us that the extreme weather events caused severe human suffering from food insecurity, drought, mass displacements and loss of life.

Reports show that a devastating drought affected more than 36 million people in East Africa, pushing many to the brink of famine. Whilst people in East Africa have been suffering from drought, in West Africa, 1.3 million people were displaced by floods which killed more than 600 people in Nigeria, Cameroon, Mali and Niger.”

The report also shows that some of the disasters in 2022 hit rapidly, like February’s Storm Eunice, which set a new UK wind speed record of 122mph and Hurricane Fiona which struck the Caribbean and Canada in September and caused losses valued at more than $3 billion in just a few days. Other events took months to unfold, like the droughts in Brazil and China which lasted all year and cost $4 billion and $8.4 billion respectively.

No corner of the globe was spared from the costliest climate impacts in 2022 with all six populated continents represented in the top ten.

Experts observed that the climate disaster impacts were also felt by some of the biggest fossil fuel polluters while elsewhere floods in South Africa, and droughts and floods in China hit two of the world’s biggest coal producers. 

Europe, battered by Strom Eunice and baked by the summer drought, is responsible for around 18 percent of human-caused greenhouse gasses. It has pledged to go Net Zero by 2050 but according to Climate Action Tracker, its current plans are deemed ‘insufficient’.

The Paris Agreement set the goal of keeping temperature rise below 1.5°C compared to pre-industrial levels, yet the outcome from the COP27 climate summit in Egypt does not currently leave the world on track to meet this goal which is why much more urgent action is required”