MADRID – 2023 has officially become the hottest year in history, marked by a series of climatic extremes, including wildfires, floods, droughts, heatwaves, and storms.
On December 16, 116 days of historically high temperatures above the global land average came to an end. These exceptional weather conditions have not only impacted the environment but also the financial outcomes of businesses, governments, and families’ savings accounts. In 2023, drought in Spain ranked among the top ten climate change-induced natural disasters globally, in terms of costs incurred by affected regions. Drought is classified within a global ranking of twenty events, which includes cyclones, floods, and fires.
The costs of natural catastrophes vary significantly worldwide, ranging from 3,600 euros per person for wildfires in Hawaii (USA) to 8 euros for floods in Peru. In Spain, it is estimated that the expenses due to drought have cost each citizen approximately 45 euros, totaling 2.1 billion euros for the entire country. “The average costs of the 20 most catastrophic phenomena amounted to 363 euros,” according to a study by Christian Aid published this Wednesday.
Calculation of cost of drought
The most common method used by this organization to calculate costs involves dividing the damage caused by fires, floods, tornadoes, or drought – the only event on the 2023 list in Spain – by the number of people living in the affected area.
Over 100 episodes of extreme weather in 2023
According to the World Meteorological Organization, there have been over 100 extreme weather events in 2023, each resulting in more than thirty fatalities. Furthermore, these events had “devastating human, social, environmental, and economic consequences.”
In Spain, Greenpeace has recorded “30 local extreme events.” “In recent years, we have witnessed a perfect storm, with an increase in these events, coupled with rising inflation,” says Santiago Arechaga, CEO of Swiss Re Iberia.
Drought becomes the new normal
The Iberian Peninsula has experienced floods, extreme temperatures, and prolonged heatwaves this year. Moreover, it has demonstrated that drought is no longer confined to the summer but has become a dangerous new normal.
In mid-December, the reservoirs in Catalonia’s inland basins were at only 17% of their capacity, and the region is facing an unprecedented drought. This situation has occurred in various parts of Spain over the past few months.
“Even before large parts of Europe experienced extreme heat in the summer of 2023, some Spanish regions were already suffering from severe drought in April,” recalls the Christian Aid report. “This has caused significant losses in rural livelihoods,” adds Arechaga.
Also read: Drought brings Malaga to red level