Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

forest fire

The Camp and Woolsey fires in California cost at least $9-13 billion in damage, according to a Christian Aid report published Thursday. (Photo: U.S. Forest Service)

10 Costliest Climate-Driven Extreme Weather Events of 2018 Caused at Least $84.8B in Damage: Analysis

"The world's weather is becoming more extreme before our eyes—the only thing that can stop this destructive trend from escalating is a rapid fall in carbon emissions."

Jessica Corbett

From heat waves and hurricanes to fires and floods, the 10 costliest extreme weather events of 2018—driven by the global climate crisis—killed thousands of people and caused at least $84.8 billion in damage, according to a new analysis from Christian Aid.

"The world's weather is becoming more extreme before our eyes—the only thing that can stop this destructive trend from escalating is a rapid fall in carbon emissions."
—Michael Mann, climate scientist

Counting the Cost: A Year of Climate Breakdown (pdf), published Thursday by the London-based group, notes that "extreme weather hit every populated continent in 2018, killing, injuring, and displacing millions, and causing major economic damage."

"All of these disasters are linked with human-caused climate change," it points out. "This report highlights some of the disastrous consequences of this warming that are already striking."

Christian Aid's global climate lead, Kat Kramer, said in a statement that "climate change is something still often talked about as a future problem, not least because we know the consequences of the warming climate are so devastating and don't want to face up to what is already happening." But, he added, as the report clearly shows, "for many people, climate change is having devastating impacts on their lives and livelihoods right now."

Though some figures "are likely to be underestimates" due to data limitations, the report lists the following as the 10 costliest extreme weather events from 2018, the fourth-hottest year on record:

EventEstimated Cost (USD)
U.S. – Hurricanes Florence & Michael$32 billion
California, U.S. – Camp & Woolsey fires$9-13 billion
Europe – drought$7.5 billion
Japan – floods$9.3-12.5 billion
Argentina – drought$6 billion
China – floods$9.3 billion
Australia – drought$5.8-9 billion
Kerala, India – floods$3.7 billion
Cape Town, South Africa – drought$1.2 billion
Philippines & China – Typhoon Mangkhut$1-2 billion

"The impacts of climate change are no longer subtle. We are seeing them play out now, on our television screens, newspaper headlines, and social media feeds," responded renowned Penn State climate scientist Michael Mann. "The world's weather is becoming more extreme before our eyes—the only thing that can stop this destructive trend from escalating is a rapid fall in carbon emissions."

Although the COP24 summit held earlier this month in Katowice, Poland led to the development of a rulebook for the Paris climate accord—an agreement backed by every nation on Earth except the United States under the Trump administration—as studies continue to show the consequences of anthropogenic global warming, including more frequent and powerful extreme weather events, experts emphasize that the international community must be even more ambitious to prevent climate catastrophe.

"We must respond to the warning these disasters are giving us and avert more and worse ones, by accelerating the transition to a zero carbon economy: one run on clean, renewable energy that will deliver a safer climate for everyone."
—Kat Kramer, Christian Aid

As the Christian Aid report warns, "Current plans for controlling emissions put the world on course for catastrophic warming by the end of the century, with the planet heating three to five times as much as it has already," meaning that "the fires, storms, heat waves, floods, and droughts of 2018 would seem insignificant in comparison, with the poorest and most vulnerable communities across the world at the forefront of these disasters."

"Unless governments worldwide increase their ambition and work to cut emissions, the world will fail to prevent this disaster," it continues, calling on every nation to "take their fair share of that global action with wealthier countries supporting the global shift to net-zero emissions through finance and technology, so that less developed countries come out of poverty in a low-carbon and sustainable way."

"History will judge us on how we act now, as there is still a window of opportunity to avert more suffering," Kramer concluded. "We must respond to the warning these disasters are giving us and avert more and worse ones, by accelerating the transition to a zero carbon economy: one run on clean, renewable energy that will deliver a safer climate for everyone."


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

Global Allies Stand With Walden Bello as Social Justice Champion Posts Bail in the Philippines

"Walden Bello's arrest is a violation of his fundamental rights, an affront to the institutions of Philippine democracy, and a threat to free expression everywhere," said the Progressive International council.

Jessica Corbett ·


Team Trump Reportedly 'Bullish' About Exploiting FBI Raid to Win Reelection

One former Trump aide-turned-"Big Lie" detractor said that the Justice Department may have "just handed Trump" the 2024 GOP nomination "or potentially the presidency."

Brett Wilkins ·


Pentagon Contractors in Afghanistan Pocketed $108 Billion Over 20 Years

Military contracting "obscures where and how taxpayer money flows," and "makes it difficult to know how many people are employed, injured, and killed," said the Costs of War Project report's author.

Jessica Corbett ·


'Enough Is Enough' Campaign Launched in UK to Fight Cost of Living Crisis

"Fair pay, affordable bills, enough to eat, and a decent place to live. These aren't luxuries—they are your rights!"

Kenny Stancil ·


Fetterman Demands Dr. Oz Answer for $50,000 Tax Break Intended for Pa. Farmers

"Dr. Oz does not want to live in Pennsylvania, and he doesn't want to pay taxes here; he just wants our Senate seat."

Julia Conley ·

Common Dreams Logo