Economic losses set to increase due to climate change, with US among the hardest hit: Swiss Re Institute

  • Four weather perils – floods, tropical cyclones, winter storms in Europe and severe thunderstorms – today cause global estimated economic losses of USD 200 billion every year
  • As of today, the US economy loses almost 0.4% of GDP (USD 97 billion) whereas the Philippines lose 3% of GDP (USD 12 billion) caused by the four weather perils, while at the same time being exposed to hazard intensification in the future
  • Swiss Re Institute ranks 36 countries most at risk of higher property damage losses from intensifying weather hazards driven by climate change

Armonk, NY (Feb. 1, 2024) – Climate change will have a larger impact on economic losses in the future, according to Swiss Re Institute. A new analysis of 36 countries ranks the Philippines and the US as the most economically exposed countries today, where hazard intensification is likely to occur due to climate change.

Jérôme Jean Haegeli, Swiss Re’s Group Chief Economist, says: “Climate change is leading to more severe weather events, resulting in increasing impact on economies. Therefore, it becomes even more crucial to take adaptation measures. Risk reduction through adaptation fosters insurability. The insurance industry is ready to play an important role by catalysing investments in adaptation, directly as a long-term investor and indirectly through underwriting climate-supportive projects and sharing risk knowledge. The more accurately climate change risks are priced, the greater the chances that necessary investments will actually be made.”

Mind the protection gap

Based on findings from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Swiss Re Institute’s new report “Changing climates: the heat is (still) on” analyses where hazards are likely to intensify and overlays it with its own estimates of economic losses resulting from the four major weather perils as of today. This provides a view of the possible direct economic implications if weather-related natural catastrophes intensify due to climate change.

With annual economic losses of 3% of GDP as of today, the Philippines is most impacted by the four weather perils of all 36 countries, while also being exposed to high probability of hazard intensification. The US is second-most exposed. At USD 97 billion (0.38% of GDP) as of today, it experiences the highest economic losses in absolute terms from weather events worldwide and at the same time, a medium probability that hazards will intensify.

In general, countries with sizeable insurance protection gaps and where the establishment of loss mitigation and adaptation measures lags the rate of economic growth, are most financially at risk from hazard intensification. Fast-growing Asian economies like Thailand, China, India, and the Philippines are most vulnerable according to the report.

Floods expected to intensify, tropical cyclones main loss driver

While flood risk is projected to intensify globally, the main driver of major weather-related economic losses in the US, as well as in east and southeast Asia, are tropical cyclones. Today, in absolute terms, economic losses from weather events in the US are the highest in the world, mostly driven by tropical cyclones (hurricanes). Severe thunderstorms also account for a large share of the economic losses.

The first step towards cutting losses is to reduce the loss potential through adaptation measures. Examples of adaptation actions include enforcing building codes, increasing flood protection, while keeping an eye on settlement in areas prone to natural perils. Ultimately, losses as a share of GDP of each country will depend on future adaptation, loss reduction and prevention.

The top 10 countries most exposed to four weather perils as of today

Annual economic loss (% of GDP) is noted for each

    1. Philippines   (3.00%)
    2. US   (0.38%)
    3. Thailand   (0.36%)
    4. Austria   (0.25%)
    5. China   (0.22%)
    6. Taiwan   (0.21%)
    7. India   (0.20%)
    8. Australia   (0.19%)
    9. Switzerland   (0.19%)
    10. Japan   (0.18%)

As-of-today probabilistic economic losses as a percentage of GDP from the four major weather-peril events, by country, in 2022. Note: These are just the lower bound of potential economic losses, as the study does not cover all weather perils (eg heatwaves) and account for property losses only. And, as changing climates fuel weather-event intensity, loss potential will likely rise. Source: Swiss Re Institute, 2024.

Download the English version of the SRI report: “Changing climates: the heat is (still) on.”


Although all the information discussed herein was taken from reliable sources, Swiss Re does not accept any responsibility for the accuracy or comprehensiveness of the information given or forward-looking statements made. The information provided and forward-looking statements made are for informational purposes only and in no way constitute or should be taken to reflect Swiss Reʼs position, in particular in relation to any ongoing or future dispute. In no event shall Swiss Re be liable for any financial or consequential loss or damage arising in connection with the use of this information and readers are cautioned not to place undue reliance on forward-looking statements. Swiss Re undertakes no obligation to publicly revise or update any forward-looking statements, whether as a result of new information, future events or otherwise.

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SOURCE: Swiss Re

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