December 7, 2021

Image credit: Oxfam International

Climate change has resulted in a significant increase in natural disasters during the last five decades

According to the World Meteorological Organization, the incidence of weather-related disasters has increased fivefold in the last 50 years. However, as a result of the increased number of storms, floods, and droughts, the number of deaths has decreased dramatically.

Climate change, more extreme weather, and better reporting, according to scientists, are all contributing to the rise in extreme events.

However, advances in warning systems have helped to reduce the amount of deaths.

As global temperatures have risen in recent decades, the incidence of disasters due to weather and water extremes has increased significantly.

According to a new WMO atlas that chronicles the scope of these occurrences, there were more than 11,000 such disasters in the 50 years between 1970 and 2019. Over two million individuals died as a result of these hazards, resulting in $3.64 trillion in economic losses. More than 90% of deaths from weather-related disasters have happened in underdeveloped countries.

Droughts were the leading cause of death, accounting for 650,000 deaths, while severe temperatures claimed the lives of roughly 56,000 people.

However, the overall death toll from disasters has decreased dramatically during the last 50 years. While more lives have been saved as a result of a rising number of extremes, the cost to the economy has increased.

Losses reported between 2010 and 2019 were over $383 million per day, up from $49 million per day between 1970 and 1979. Three of the most financially devastating severe disasters all occurred in the same year, 2017.

While advances in warning systems are helping to save lives, the atlas reminds out that there is still much more work to be done.

Only half of the 193 countries that make up the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) have multi-hazard early warning systems. In Africa, some sections of Latin America, and among Pacific and Caribbean island governments, there are also significant gaps in weather and hydrological observation networks.

Early warning systems have saved more lives, but the number of people exposed to disaster risk is growing as a result of population growth in hazard-prone areas and the increasing intensity and frequency of weather events, according to Mami Mizutori, the UN Secretary-Special General’s Representative for Disaster Risk Reduction.