The extreme costs of extreme weather

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Economic losses from climate-related disasters rose to US$2.25 trillion (HK$17.7 trillion) over the past two decades, an increase of more than 150 per cent compared to the previous 20-year period, according to the United Nations.

From 1998 to 2017, reported losses from all natural disasters totalled US$2.9 trillion, of which 77 per cent was due to extreme weather events, the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) said.

This compares with overall losses of US$1.3 trillion from 1978 to 1997, of which climate-related disasters accounted for US$895 billion or 68 per cent.

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Losses were greatest in the United States at more than US$944 billion, followed by China at US$492 billion, and Japan at US$376 billion.

The UNISDR warned that the 1998-2017 figures rely on official reports, so more economically powerful countries are generally over-represented. Insurance is less widespread in developing countries.