India may have suffered an economic loss of $4.4 billion last year alone due to storms, and an additional $3.2 billion due to flooding, the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) said on Monday.

WMO released its State of Climate in Asia 2021 report on Monday which revealed last year alone, weather and water-related hazards caused a total damage of $ 35.6 billion across the continent, affecting nearly 50 million people.

The estimates of losses are important because so-called Loss and Damage funding is on the agenda at COP 27 — the first time it has been on the agenda of a climate conference.

Flooding caused the highest economic losses in China ($ 18.4 billion), followed by India ($ 3.2 billion) and Thailand ($ 0.6 billion).

Storms also caused significant economic damage, especially in India ($ 4.4 billion), China ($ 3.0 billion) and Japan ($ 2 billion).

The report highlighted how the climate crisis is exacerbating food insecurity and poverty.

The Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) Asia-Pacific Disaster Reports 2021 and 2022, referred by WMO in its report, estimate that in Asia, the annual investment in adaptation would need to be highest for China, at $ 188.8 billion, followed by India at $ 46.3 billion and Japan at $ 26.5 billion. As a percentage of the country’s GDP, the highest cost is estimated for Nepal, at 1.9%, followed by Cambodia at 1.8% and India at 1.7%.

Many glaciers in High Mountain Asia including the Himalayas and the Tibetan Plateau lost mass rapidly due to exceptionally warm and dry conditions in 2021, the report said. “These so-called water towers of the world are vital for freshwater supplies for the most densely populated part of the planet and so glacier retreat has major implications for future generations. Water-related extremes are the most important hazard in Asia.”

During 2020-2021, preliminary data available from glaciers observed in High-Mountain Asia show a clear regional heterogeneity in mass changes. Most glaciers in the High-Mountain Asia region, particularly in the south-eastern Tibetan Plateau, eastern Himalayas and Pamir Alai, suffered intense mass losses as the result of exceptionally warm and dry conditions in 2021, the report said . The glaciological year 2020/2021 is one of the two strongest years of ablation on observation record, close to 2009, it added.

In 2021, the largest relative precipitation deficit was observed in West Asia, including, in particular, the Islamic Republic of Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan and the Arabian Peninsula. The largest absolute precipitation excesses, with reference to the 1981–2010 climate normal, were observed along the west coasts of India and Myanmar, in the eastern Himalayas and on the North China Plain. Abnormally high annual precipitation totals were also recorded in South and South-East Asia, eastern China and the West Siberian Plain.

“The climate indicators and extreme events shown this report and expected increase in precipitation over much of Asia in the future shows just how vital it is to strengthen early warning systems,” said WMO secretary-general Petteri Taalas in a statement.

The report, which was produced jointly with the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), was presented during the UN climate change negotiations, COP27, in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt.

“It’s critical that COP27 should deliver a strong provision on Loss and Damage funding. It is reparations for damages and will establish the polluters pays principle, which will be deterrence over large polluters,” said Sunita Narain, director general, Centre for Science and Environment.

Last year, there were a total of more than 100 natural hazard events in Asia, of which 80% were flood and storm events. These resulted in almost 4,000 fatalities, about 80% caused by flooding. Overall, 48.3 million people were directly affected by these hazards, causing total economic damage of $ 35.6 billion.

During the formal opening of UN Climate Conference (COP27)’s Climate Implementation Summit last Monday, UN secretary general, Antonio Guterres said the world is on a highway to climate hell as global mean temperature is approaching the 1.5 degree C warming threshold.

“Global temperatures keep rising. And our planet is fast approaching tipping points that will make climate chaos irreversible. We are on a highway to climate hell with our foot on the accelerator. The war in Ukraine, conflict in the Sahel and violence and unrest in so many other places are terrible crises plaguing today’s world. But climate change is on a different timeline and a different scale,” he had said.

By Shadab

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