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#Gettingworse: the cost of European weather disasters edition

06 Mar 2024 | Science Notes

In this series we consider examples of weather and climate extremes that are supposedly getting worse and worse, and we compare such claims to data. This week we look at weather disasters in Europe, with a tip of the hat to Roger Pielke Jr. who wrote about it on his Substack blog. Not that EU politicians are the only ones out there claiming that weather hazards are getting worse, but they seem to be particularly vocal about it. Unfortunately for them, but fortunately for everyone they govern, the truth is not what they think.

If you simply plot up the value of weather-related disasters year by year then yes, there is an upward trend since 1980:

But since 1980 there have been a lot of buildings built, and a lot of cars, equipment and other things accumulated, often fancier than the 1980 model, so the same number of storms could do a lot more damage now because there is a lot more stuff to get damaged and a lot of it is more expensive. The real test is whether damages have grown as a fraction of the size of the economy, and that trend is downward:

Pielke Jr. concludes:

“There is presently no evidence to suggest that a climate change signal can be detected in European weather and climate-related economic loss data. As always, if you want to look for signals of changes in extreme events over many decades, look at weather and climate data, not economic data.”

He also notes that there is evidence heat waves are getting worse in the EU, but they tend to cause relatively little economic damage compared to other types of extreme weather. If you want to know more about the shady science of heat waves be sure to check out our new video on the topic. Meanwhile next time you hear the claim that the cost of weather disasters is getting worse and worse, check if whoever is making the claim took the simple precaution of comparing it to the size of the economy itself.

One comment on “#Gettingworse: the cost of European weather disasters edition”

  1. Yup.The upward trend is due to inflation and increases of stuff and populations.The downward trend is due to greater wealth overall,which means that
    societies are better able to absorb the costs of weather disasters.

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