Global cooperation will be needed to face the significant costs of weather and climate-related disasters

Climate change is an increasingly costly, and deadly, event in countries around the world.

As the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) reports, the past 50 years have seen some of the deadliest and most expensive disasters ever recorded. The period from 1970 to 2019 accounted for 50% of all climate-related disasters, 45% of reported deaths, and contributed 74% of economic loss ever suffered due to climate.

While the broad view of experts and regulatory agencies is that these weather and climate events are most likely to affect the most vulnerable, a term that would typically evoke images of at-risk people in emerging or developing economies, the spectrum of damage has also widened. People everywhere, from Russia to the US, Australia, China, India, and Chile, in urban and rural areas, are increasingly exposed to the debilitating economic and human costs of climate events.

While this reality underlines the global threat that worsening climate events pose, I believe it also indicates the global scale of cooperation needed to ameliorate the humanitarian, economic, and financial impact of these disasters on human populations.

Seref Dogan Erbek

The exorbitant cost of climate-related disasters

In the 1970s, available records pegged the financial cost of climate disaster at a daily average of $49 million. Those costs have exploded recently, and as of the 2010s, the daily economic expense of weather-related damage was a mammoth $383 million per day. Worse, three out of the ten costliest weather events on record occurred recently, all in a single year, and together they account for 35% of total economic disaster loss from 1970 to 2019.

The cost of climate change isn’t only financial though. The top ten deadliest weather hazards between 1970 and 2019 also account for well over a million deaths, according to the WMO. Droughts caused the most damage during the period, causing 650,000 deaths, followed closely by storms which led to 577,232 deaths.

While some part of these events’ deadly aspect can be attributed to their force and wide-ranging impact, they are even deadlier for the multiplier effects they produce on affected populations. For many, climate-related disasters often spell the loss of livelihood, shelter, sustenance, security, and any semblance of normal life. In the event of such disasters, the most affected find their lives suddenly and violently thrown off track, sometimes permanently. Often, only those in countries with established and extensive welfare systems are able to return to a normal life.

In my opinion, one of the harshest outcomes of climate disaster is its effect on the ability to procure a livelihood and sustenance. Climate operates quite visibly and devastatingly on food systems, and these events are significant threat factors for global food security. Addressing this topic in a report on the impact of disasters and crises on agriculture and food security, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) notes that “the growing frequency and intensity of disasters, along with the systemic nature of risk, are jeopardizing our entire food system.”

Global action necessary to stall climate-driven trouble

As Qu Dongyu, Director-General of the FAO, notes, “we are living at a time that demands ambitious collective measures.” The world can only move the needle on climate-related goals and effectively tackle the growing menace of weather disaster with comprehensive and broad-based action from all sides.

Climate is a global problem, and in my opinion, it will take only global action to address this threat. Dongyu frames the task facing the world aptly when he says “the ability of governments, international organizations, civil society and the private sector to operate and cooperate in fragile and disaster-prone contexts is a defining feature for meeting global targets and achieving resilience and sustainability.”

The world must act collectively and decisively in unearthing, fine-tuning, implementing and scaling plans to cushion the effects of climate change. Trade, agriculture, and disaster-readiness are low-hanging fruits that can provide immediate results, as the World Bank asserts.

Ultimately, it is undeniable that climate disaster risk is a growing threat factor for the entire world, and mitigating this threat will require broad global cooperation to secure the lives and livelihood of at-risk populations.

EU employment rate higher than pre-Covid days

After a brief COVID-induced slump, employment rates in the EU have trended upwards once more, according to Eurostat. While the EU employment rate fell to 71.7% in 2020, a drop of one percentage point compared to 2019, job markets in the region rebounded to 73.1% in 2021.

In a statement accompanying the release of the European bloc’s 2021 employment data, the EU’s statistics office noted that three member states – the Netherlands (81.7%), Sweden (80.7%), and Czech Republic (80%) – experienced particularly strong gains. And overall, 16 member states achieved or exceeded pre-COVID employment levels, which I believe indicates the incredibly resilient nature of the European job market.

Impact of the pandemic on EU employment

COVID-19 was a destabilizing event for most economies and a wide spectrum of industries. The EU employment landscape was no different. “The labour market was affected by COVID-19 restrictions in 2020”, says Eurostat, as lockdown mandates and dwindling demand in certain industries led to furloughs and layoffs.

According to bloc data, only four of 27 member states exceeded 2019 employment levels during 2020, and that by less than 0.5 percentage points. For the majority of states within the bloc, the year brought about a fall in the number of employed individuals, a common response to the pandemic pressures that reverberated worldwide.

However, certain member states experienced worse outcomes. Austria, Spain, Greece, and Ireland recorded the highest falls in employment, with rate falls of between two to three percentage points.

Seref Dogan Erbek

EU job market recovery

The EU employment rate did not remain depressed for long though. As Reuters reports, the EU posted stronger rate growth in 2021, surpassing pre-pandemic levels and instilling greater confidence in the region’s labor market and the policies set in motion to manage market flux during COVID.

As I’ve stated above, the European bloc experienced majority positive growth in employment rates during 2021, with 16 member states showing greater growth than 2019. Interestingly, Greece – amongst the low-fliers in 2020 – experienced one of the highest results in 2021 with a rate growth of nearly two percentage points (pp) over 2019 figures. Poland (+3.1 pp), Romania (+2.0 pp), and Malta (+1.8 pp) also experienced solid gains compared to 2019.

The results were not all positive though. Eurostat says 11 countries showed worse growth rates than 2019, led by Latvia, Estonia, Austria, Bulgaria, and Slovakia, which experienced the largest declines. Regardless, it’s critical to maintain context, even with these worse than expected results. While some of these states may not have surpassed pre-pandemic levels, the majority showed recovery from the 2020 depression, and this is in line with the promising job growth in the EU market.

Resilience and robustness in EU market

In my opinion, the results reported by Eurostat indicate remarkable robustness in the EU market. Compared to other regions, such as North America, which experienced more drastic falls in employment rates during COVID, the single percentage point decrease recorded in the EU shows very little job displacement during a trying period for countries around the world.

The IMF also notes these “astonishing” results, which it attributes to job retention schemes and “a rapid and forceful policy response at both EU and national levels…” And, with increasing industrial and economic activity, the EU job market has seen markedly improved conditions, which I believe will help launch greater stability and more growth in the next reporting period.

Overall, the data indicates that the EU did much that was right during the height of the pandemic, and those efforts are bearing fruit now. As the IMF notes, the EU now enjoys, by virtue of these results, “a potentially crucial head start in navigating the structural transformations that lie ahead and in making sure that nobody gets left behind.”

How important is Russian gas in the conflict with Ukraine?

AAs the World Economic Forum reports, oil prices jumped above $110 per barrel in the weeks after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Likewise, natural gas prices more than tripled between mid-February and early March in reaction to the conflict, signaling how the war is affecting energy prices globally.
But in the case of the Russia-Ukraine conflict, energy sensitivities to the war go well beyond volatile price action.

Considering Russia’s status as a significant player in global energy supply and the lengthy profile of countries (including the EU and India) relying on its output, there are other nuanced issues at stake in the conflict.

I outline some of these below.

Effect of energy on economies

Energy, being a driver of practically all industry, is a critical global resource. However, the commodity’s volatility – resulting from sensitivity to global or regional disruptions, price seasonality, and industry concerns – makes it an economic wild card at times.

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The effects of this price seasonality often vary, but in most cases, it results in disruptions to local and global supply, sharp price hikes, or scarcity in the commodity. Countries are often keen to avoid this outcome, which is one of the reasons why the international community has not placed a coordinated embargo on Russian gas.

In the case of the EU and countries such as Germany, Poland and Bulgaria, these concerns are all the more critical due to their reliance on Russian energy. The EU gets 40% to 45% of its gas from Russia, while Germany, Austria, and Italy fulfill 55%, 80%, and 40% of their respective gas needs from Russia. These countries are largely paralyzed from taking concerted action due to their potential vulnerability to shocks resulting from energy disruptions.

Energy agreement disputes and potential shutoffs

Russia and its trade partners have experienced turbulent economic relationships in the past, particularly in relation to energy agreements. For instance, Russia and Ukraine had a 2008 dispute over a gas transit deal that resulted in Russian gas supply cuts to its neighbor in the dead of winter. Likewise, Russia shut off Ukraine’s gas supply after a 2014 payment dispute, indicating the superior bargaining power of the Russian government.

Russia recently activated these same measures against Poland and Bulgaria (which gets 90% of its gas from Russia) for their failure to pay for gas supply in Russian roubles as opposed to US dollars.

Russia continues to maintain a difficult, and often complex, relationship with its trade partners, especially in Europe and North America. Consequently, responding to the potential of Russian gas shut offs demands opening up alternative supply channels to blunt the effects of any Russian action. But that option will take time to implement, which is a distinctly limited resource in times of war.

Complex economic interrelationships

While the battle lines in Ukraine seem reasonably clear, the underlying economic relationships underpinning the conflict are much less so. For instance, the two main actors – Russia and Ukraine – continue to maintain energy relations as Ukraine is still a key player in the transit of Russian gas to Europe.

To add some economic leverage to its conflict against Russia, Ukraine has also now activated some of its control over that process, blocking Russian flows to Europe. As a result, natural gas prices in Europe have jumped even higher in the day after this action, adding further complexity to the conflict.

Even the US, which has expressly forsworn energy imports from Russia, is still partly dependent on the country for 16% of its uranium imports, emphasizing the complex interrelationships that underpin the train of events.