Germany urged to act on climate change as true costs revealed

Extreme heat, drought and floods caused by climate change cost Germany at least some EUR 7billion in damages annually on average in the past two decades, with cat events pushing losses into the tens of billions, according to a new study.

The study, by economic research company Prognos, comes as authorities across Southern Europe battle to control huge wildfires, with hundreds of deaths blamed on soaring temperatures that scientists suggest are consistent with climate change.

Germany’s economy and environment ministries cited the study, showing that floods in the states of Rhineland-Palatinate and North Rhine-Westphalia in 2021 cost more than EUR40 billion in damages. This, combined with the hot summers of 2018 and 2019, meant that the cost to Europe’s biggest economy rose to EUR 80 billion for the period.

The study authors said the estimates of damage since the year 2000 could be even higher due to individual events that have not been examined yet and unquantifiable effects such as the impact on health and the consequences for biological diversity.

In 2018 and 2019, Germany’s forests and agriculture suffered damages of 25.6 billion euros due to heat waves and drought, in addition to nine billion euros in damages caused by workers’ lower productivity in industry and commerce sectors.

German Environment Minister Steffi Lemke said the numbers the study showed were alarming.

“We must and we will now invest more in climate protection and climate adaptation in order to better protect our population,” Lemke said.

With the aim of being carbon neutral by 2045, the German government has stepped up climate protection efforts with far-reaching reforms for the utility sector and across manufacturing industries, buildings, transport and agriculture.