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Saturday, September 25, 2021

Natural disasters have increased fivefold in the last 50 times: UN report

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Children play as caked clay is visible in a dried-up municipal dam in drought-stricken Graaff-Reinet, South Africa, on November 17, 2019.
  • More than 11,000 climate-related disasters, 91 percent of fatalities in poor nations.
  • WMO Secretary-General says climate and water extremes will become more frequent and severe globally.
  • UNDRR chief says for more investment in disaster risk management.

Droughts, tsunamis, storms, and earthquakes have increased fivefold in the last 50 years, causing 2 million deaths and $3.64 trillion in economic losses, according to a UN body.

Climate and weather-related disasters accounted for half of all recorded disaster occurrences on Earth since 1970, according to a WMO/UNDRR report.

Climate and weather-related disasters caused 45 percent of all reported deaths and 74 percent of economic losses in the last five decades, the report said, with the bulk occurring in poor nations.

However, due to better warning systems, disaster-related deaths have dropped almost threefold between 1970 and 2019 — to barely 20,000 in the 2010s.

Natural risks accounted for 50% of all disasters, 45% of all deaths and 74% of all economic losses from 1970 to 2019.

Over 11,000 natural disasters were reported worldwide, with over 90% of deaths happening in poor nations.

From 1970 to 2019, Asia saw 3,454 disasters, claiming 975,622 deaths and $2 trillion in damages.

Asia contributes for approximately 30% of worldwide weather, climate, and water disasters, almost 50% of deaths, and one-third of economic losses.

“Exposure raises economic losses. But, despite the grim numbers, there is hope. Improved multi-hazard early warning systems have led mortality. Simply put, we are better at saving lives than ever “Petteri Taalas, WMO Secretary-General, stated.

Droughts killed the most people (650,000), followed by storms (577,232).

Storms led floods, killing 58,700 deaths, while extreme heat killed 55,736.

However, economic losses have increased sevenfold from the 1970s to the 2010s, from $49 million to $383 million a day worldwide.

World economic losses were caused by storms, the main source of damage.

Hurricanes in 2017 accounted for 35% of global economic losses from 1970 to 2019.

Hurricane Harvey cost the US $96.9 billion, Maria cost the Caribbean $69.4 billion, and Irma cost Cape Verde $58.2 billion.

Rising climate and weather extremes

“Temperature change will increase the number and severity of weather, climate, and water extremes in many parts of the world”, said WMO Sec-Gen.

So expect more drought waves, heatwaves, and forest fires like those lately saw in Europe and North America.

A rise in atmospheric water vapour has worsened extreme rainfall and flooding, but warmer seas have reduced the frequency and intensity of tropical cyclones.

WMO cited peer-reviewed studies in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society showing that from 2015 to 2017, 62 of 77 incidents reported had a significant human impact.

Several studies conducted since 2015 show that human activity has increased the likelihood of heatwaves.

In the Atlas, natural variability produced by major oceanic and atmospheric oscillations, such as the El Nio climatic patterns, makes attribution of drought occurrences to anthropogenic causes more difficult than heatwaves.

However, the 2016-2017 East African drought was exacerbated by high sea surface temperatures in the western Indian Ocean.

Climate change has increased extreme sea-level occurrences linked with tropical cyclones, resulting in increased flooding and related consequences.

This has made low-lying megacities, deltas, coastlines, and islands more vulnerable globally.

Increasingly, research shows that human number exacerbates extreme rainfall occurrences, often in concert with other significant climate studies.

Extreme rains in eastern China in June and July 2016 during Hurricane Harvey in 2017.

Early warning systems and advice

Also, barely half of WMO’s 193 members have multi-hazard early warning systems. The weather and hydrological observation networks in Africa, Latin America, and the Pacific and Caribbean parts are severely lacking.

“Early warning systems save lives, but the number of people exposed to disaster risk is rising due to population expansion in hazard-prone regions and increasing intensity and frequency of weather events, “UN Special Representative Mami Mizutori stated.

Mizutori stated that international collaboration is required to address the issue of massive annual displacement caused by floods, storms, and drought.

Mizutori advocated for increased investment in comprehensive disaster risk management to ensure climate change adaptation is integrated into national and local disaster risk reduction plans.

The UNDRR chief cautioned that failing to minimise catastrophe losses jeopardises developing nations’ capacity to eliminate poverty and achieve the SDGs (SDGs).

The Atlas also advises nations to evaluate their hazard exposure and vulnerability in intensity of a changing climate and the past of new tropical cyclone tracks, intensities, and speeds.

The report also urges the establishment of integrated and proactive strategies for slow-onset disasters like drought.

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