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Extreme weather events such as heat waves or floods, which are expected to increase in the coming years as a result of climate change, have cost 142,000 lives and almost €510 billion in Europe over the last 40 years.

The assessment also found that the overwhelming amount of the fatalities — more than 85% in the 40-year period — was due to heatwaves. The heatwave of 2003 caused most fatalities, representing between 50 and 75% of all fatalities from weather and climate-related events over the last four decades, according to the data. Similar heatwaves after 2003 caused a significant lower amount of fatalities, as adaptation measures were taken in different countries and by different actors.

The European Environment Agency (EEA), based in Copenhagen, responsible for the study released today, calls for continuous adaptation measures, both at individual and state levels. And it warns that only a quarter of the recorded damages were covered by insurance.

Climatic events such as heat waves, but also periods of cold, droughts or forest fires are responsible for 93% of all deaths and 22% of financial losses, according to the report, quoted by the AFP agency and based on data from the organization CATDAT. .

Human losses are much smaller in floods, but these disasters were the ones that caused the most damage, 44% of the total, ahead of storms (34%).

Some very serious events concentrate much of the damage: 3% of identified disasters are responsible for about 60% of the financial cost from 1980 – 2020.

The 2003 heat wave alone killed around 80,000 people in the 32 European countries analysed, which include the 27 member states of the European Union (EU), as well as Turkey and the United Kingdom.

For EEA member countries, total economic losses from weather- and climate-related events amounted to between EUR 450 and EUR 520 billion (in 2020 euros), for the 1980-2020 period. In absolute terms, the highest economic losses in the period 1980-2020 were registered in Germany followed by France then Italy.

Around 23 % of total losses were insured, although this also varied considerably among countries, from 1 % in Romania and Lithuania to 56 % in Denmark and 55 % in the Netherlands (based on CATDAT data). Overall, the World Meteorological Organization estimates that the number of weather-related disasters has increased over the past 50 years, causing more property damage but fewer deaths.