Weather disasters increased five-fold in 50 years, becoming more frequent and costly, says UN agency

The report by the UN agency has found that such disasters have increased five-fold in the time period of 50 years and the changes have been driven largely by the warming planet. The report has further warned that the upward trend will continue.

Created On: Sep 7, 2021 13:55 IST
Weather disasters increased five fold
Weather disasters increased five fold

The United Nations has warned that the weather-related disasters have increased over the past half-century and have caused far more damage even as better and improved warning systems have led to the decrease in deaths.

A report from the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) of the UN has examined the economic and mortality losses from the weather, climate, and water extremes between 1970 and 2019.

The report by the UN agency has found that such disasters have increased five-fold in the time period of 50 years and the changes have been driven largely by the warming planet. The report has further warned that the upward trend will continue.

Weather-related disasters increased since 1970: What does the UN study say?

The Secretary-General of WMO, Petteri Taalas has said that the number of weather, climate, and water extremes have been increasing and will be becoming more frequent and severe in many parts of the world as a result of climate change.

In total, there have been more than 11,000 disasters attributed to these hazards since 1970. They have caused more than two million deaths and some $3.64 trillion in losses.

On average, over the past 50 years, a disaster linked to climate, weather, and water extremes has occurred every single day, killing 115 people and causing $202 million in daily losses.

More than 91% of the deaths due to disasters have occurred in the developed countries.

Droughts have been responsible for the largest losses of human life. It has accounted for some 6,50,000 deaths, while the storms have leftover 5,77,000 people dead.

Meanwhile, as per the UN report, floods have killed nearly 59,000 over the past 50 years and the extreme temperatures have killed close to 56,000.

Deaths due to weather disasters declined nearly three-fold:

The report, on a positive note, has found that even as the number of climate and weather-related disasters has ballooned over the past half-century, the number of deaths due to the disasters has declined three-fold.

The number has fallen from over 50,000 deaths each year in the 1970s to fewer than 20,000 in the 2010s.

As per WMO, while the 1970s and 1980 have reported an average of 170 related deaths per day, the daily average of deaths in the 1990s fell to 90, and then to 40 in 2010. The dramatic improvements in the early warning systems are largely to thank for the drop in deaths.

Mami Mizutori, head of the UN office for disaster risk reduction, has also appreciated the life-saving impact of the improved early warning systems.

Problem is far from over and much remains to be done

The World Meteorological Organisation has however stressed that much remains to be done. There are only half of the UN agency’s 193 member nations who are currently housing the life-saving multi-hazard early warning systems.

The UN agency has also cautioned about the severe gaps that have remained in weather and the hydrological observing networks in Africa, in Pacific and Caribbean island states and parts of Latin America.

Mami Mizutori also warned that the number of people who are exposed to disaster risk has been increasing because of the population growth in hazard-exposed areas and the growing frequency of weather events.

Weather disasters becoming costly:

While the early warning systems have helped in saving lives, they have done very little to shield the disaster-prone areas from economic damage.

From 2010 to 2019, the reported losses stood at $383 million per day which is 7 times more than some $49 million in the 1970s.

In the past 50 years, seven of the costliest 10 disasters have happened since 2005. Three of them were in 2017 alone: Hurricane Harvey- caused nearly $97 billion in damages, followed by Maria at $70 billion and Irma at approx. $60 billion.

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