The number of disasters, such as floods and heat waves, caused by climate change, increased fivefold in the last 50 years, killing more than 2 million people and costing 3.64 trillion dollars in total losses, the UN said in a report released on Wednesday (1).
According to the document, more than 91% of deaths happened in developing countries.
The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) claims that its “Atlas” is the most comprehensive analysis of mortality and economic losses caused by disasters linked to extreme weather phenomena.
WMO examined nearly 11,000 disasters that occurred between 1979 and 2019, including major catastrophes such as the 1983 Ethiopian drought (the most fatal event, with 300,000 deaths) and Hurricane Katrina in 2005 (the most expensive, with losses of 163 .61 billion dollars).
The report showed an accelerating trend, with the number of disasters increasing nearly fivefold from the 1970s to the most recent decade, adding signs that extreme weather events are becoming more frequent due to global warming.
WMO attributed the increasing frequency to both climate change and improved disaster reporting.
Photo taken August 31, 2017 – Man protects his belongings in a flooded street after Hurricane Harvey hits Houston, USA — Photo: Adrees Latif/Reuters
Event costs also rose from $175.4 billion in the 1970s to $1.38 trillion in the 2010s, when storms like Harvey, Maria and Irma ravaged the United States.
“The number of extreme phenomena is increasing. Due to climate change, these will be more frequent and severe in many parts of the world,” said WMO Secretary General Petteri Taalas.
But as the dangers became more expensive and frequent, the Annual death toll dropped from more than 50,000 in the 1970s to around 18,000 in the 2010s, suggesting that better planning was paying off.
“Improved multi-hazard early warning systems have led to a significant reduction in mortality,” added Taalas.
OMM expects the report to be used for help governments develop policies to better protect people.
The report also points out that only half of the 193 WMO members have multi-hazard early warning systems.
See how climate change affects the planet in the video:
Floods, Snow and Extreme Heat: How Climate Change Affects the Planet