SPAIN’S drought – especially last April – has made it onto the list of the most expensive global climate disasters of the year as the country continues to suffer low rainfall levels.
The unseasonal drought appears in ninth place in the Counting the Cost 2023 report, published annually by the UK charity Christian Aid.
The study analyses the 20 costliest extreme weather events of the year, using the global database of natural disasters (EM-DAT), and calculates the cost per head.
It values the damage caused by Spain’s drought at almost €2.2 billion, coming at €45 per head in the country.
April is normally the fourth rainiest month of the year in Spain and coincides with the growing period of most crops.
This year rainfall only reached 14.2 litres per square metre- just 22% of what had rained in that month in the last three decades, while temperatures were three degrees above the average.
“Climate change is making weather events such as floods or droughts more frequent and intense,” says Audrey Brouillet, a researcher at the French Research Institute for Development.
“Places that are dry are getting drier and wet places are getting wetter and in the future we expect a further worsening caused by the continued burning of fossil fuels and the emission of greenhouse gases.”
With a global warming of 2°C, some regions such as North Africa or southern Spain could experience droughts that are 50% more intense, while other regions of Central Africa will experience 70% heavier rainfall.
Heading this year’s report are August’s wildfires in Hawaii, which killed 181 people with the estimated damage amounting to around €3,800 per citizen.
Although it is believed that in Spain there were no direct deaths due to the high temperatures and lack of water in April, the report underlines precisely the difficulty of blaming these slow-onset events for many deaths.
The so-called excess deaths, which is used as a benchmark compared to other years, was 61,000 during the entire heat wave that hit Europe in the summer.
The majority of natural disasters, the report points out, were caused by climate change, with an average cost of €360 per person.
Patrick Watt, executive director of Christian Aid, said: “This year has been the hottest on record, and the effects of climate change are more evident than ever. “
“While some disasters make headlines, most go unnoticed by the rest of the world, and when it comes it comes to the climate crisis, there is a global zip code lottery that plays against the poor,” he continued.
“People are often less prepared for disasters and have fewer resources to recover. The result is that more people die, and recovery is slower and more uneven. There is a double injustice in the fact that the communities most affected by global warming are the ones that have contributed the least to the problem.”