The cost of climate change

We partner with attribution scientists to study extreme event costs.

Silhouette of two firemen spraying water from a firehose onto burnt remains of tropical shanty house
Aftermath of fire in the Philippines. Photo: Denniz Futalan, Pexels

Events like floods, droughts, and storms cause untold damage. The climate crisis is changing the frequency of these events, and they are becoming more damaging. But how can we quantify the role and impact of climate change in these events?

It is in fact possible to calculate the current economic costs attributable to climate change through extreme weather events. We do this by combining an economic assessment of damage from natural disasters with an atmospheric science assessment of the increased probability these events will occur.

For New Zealand, together with our collaborators, we calculated costs from adverse weather events associated with climate change: at least $120M for privately insured damages from floods and $720M for economic losses from droughts.

The team, which includes several climate scientists, has also investigated the climate change cost of Hurricane Harvey—a Category 4 hurricane that struck Texas in 2017, causing catastrophic flooding. In this project, we showed that these quantifications suggest that the mainstream economic estimates of the cost of climate change are most likely severely underestimated.