Climate change and increasingly extreme weather events have caused a surge in natural disasters over the past 50 years disproportionately impacting poorer countries according to a new report by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR).
The WMO UNDRR Atlas of Mortality and Economic Losses from Weather, Climate and Water Extremes, from 1970 to 2019, revealed that these natural hazards accounted for 50% of all disasters, 45% of all reported deaths and 74% of all reported economic losses.
There were more than 11,000 reported disasters attributed to these hazards globally, with just over two million deaths and $3.64tn in losses. More than 91% of the deaths occurred in developing countries.
Thanks, however, to improved early warning systems and disaster management, the number of deaths decreased almost threefold between 1970 and 2019 - falling from 50,000 in the 1970s to less than 20,000 in the 2010s. the report said.
WMO secretary general Petteri Taalas said, “Economic losses are mounting as exposure increases. But, behind the stark statistics, lies a message of hope. Improved multi-hazard early warning systems have led to a significant reduction in mortality. Quite simply, we are better than ever before at saving lives.”
Of the top 10 disasters, droughts proved to be the deadliest hazard during the period, causing 650,000 deaths, followed by storms that led to 577,232 deaths; floods, which took 58.700 lives; and extreme temperature events, during which 55,736 died.
Meanwhile, economic losses have increased sevenfold from the 1970s to the 2010s, going from an average of $49m to $383m per day globally. Storms, the most prevalent cause of damage, resulted in the largest economic losses around the globe.
Mr Taalas said, “The number of weather, climate and water extremes are increasing and will become more frequent and severe in many parts of the world as a result of climate change.”
More water vapor in the atmosphere has exacerbated extreme rainfall and flooding and the warming oceans have affected the frequency and extent of the most intense tropical storms. M