A "once-in-a-decade” report predicts natural disasters will cost Australia’s economy a whopping $39 billion per year by 2050. 

The chilling figure falls under the “adapting to climate change” megatrend in the Our Future World report by Australia’s National Science Agency CSIRO. The paper — which delves into major global movements that have the potential for substantial and transformative impact — says extreme weather events are set to “exceed the bounds of historical norms.”

"The increasing frequency and cost of natural disasters, with the potential for multiple concurrent climate hazards compounding the overall climate risk, highlight the need for urgent climate action,” the report reads. “There is a critical role for science and technology in developing solutions to enhance disaster preparedness and manage climate change impacts.” 

According to the report, natural disasters cost Australia over $13 billion in 2017.

More recently, the Black Summer bushfires from 2019 and 2020 cost the Australian economy over $2 billion, while flooding along southeast Queensland cost the state $7 billion. The report explains that these extreme weather events will only continue as global temperatures and sea levels rise and heavy rainfall becomes more intense. 

Some of the industries expected to be most impacted are agriculture and real estate. 

This is not the first time predictions on the cost of natural disasters have been made. 

A study from the Climate Council in 2019 revealed that without urgent action to curb global warming, climate change could knock as much as $4 trillion off Australia’s economy by the century’s end. In the same year, German company Munich Re revealed that wildfires, floods and hurricanes fueled by climate change cost the world US$150 billion, with costs set to soar.

"There are few forces affecting the economy that match the scale of climate change,” the Climate Council wrote at the time.

Thankfully, the strategic foresight in the CSIRO report allows Australian leaders to work to build a better world.

While the nation’s newly-elected Labor Government has promised to restore Australia’s international reputation in the climate space — namely by reducing emissions and achieving net zero — more must be done if the worst of the climate crisis, and the subsequent impact on the economy, is to be avoided. 

"ACF welcomes the meaningful increase to Australia’s national 2030 emission reduction target from the previous government’s 26-28% to 43%,” Australia’s national environment organisation ACF wrote last month. “We do need to do more to prevent the worst climate damage. We will need to keep raising climate ambition and action over the coming years to do our fair share for a safe climate.”


Defend the Planet

Climate Change-Fuelled Natural Disasters to Cost Australia $39 Billion per Year by 2050

By Madeleine Keck