Climate change led to rise in natural disasters over last 20 years: Report

Representational image (Source @UNFCCC)

New Delhi (NVI): There has been a dramatic increase in natural disasters over the last 20 years, due to a rise in climate-related disasters, including change in extreme weather events, according to a UN report.

The UN Office on Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR) report- “The Human Cost of Disasters 2000-2019” showed that there were 7,348 major disaster events that had occurred between 2000 and 2019, claiming 1.23 lives, affecting 4.2 billion people and resulting in some USD 2.97 trillion in global economic losses.

In the preceding two decades, between 1980 and 1999, 4,212 disasters were linked to natural hazards worldwide which claimed 1.19 million lives and affected 3.25 billion people resulting in USD 1.63 trillion in economic losses.

“Much of the difference the 1980-1999 is explained by a rise in climate-related disasters including extreme weather events: from 3,656 climate-related events to 6,681 climate-related disasters in the period 2000-2019,” the report said.

It also shows that the last twenty years has seen the number of major floods more than double, from 1,389 to 3,254, while the incidence of storms grew from 1,457 to 2,034 and floods and storms were the most prevalent events.

The report also records major increases in other categories including drought, wildfires and extreme temperature events.

However, there has been a rise in geo-physical events including earthquakes and tsunamis which have killed more people than any of the other natural hazards under review in this report.

Mami Mizutori, the UN Secretary-General’s special representative for disaster risk reduction, said, “We are willfully destructive. That is the only conclusion one can come to when reviewing disaster events over the last twenty years.”

“COVID-19 is but the latest proof that political and business leaders are yet to tune in to the world around them,” Mizutori said.

She further said that disaster management agencies, civil protection departments, fire brigades, public health authorities, the Red Cross and Red Crescent, and many NGOs are fighting an uphill battle against an ever-rising tide of extreme weather events.

“The report is a reminder to UN Member States of their commitment to strengthen disaster risk governance and to have national and local strategies for disaster risk reduction in place by 2020,” Mizutori added.

Moreover, the statistics in this report are from the Emergency Events Database (EM-DAT) maintained by the Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED) which records disasters which have killed ten or more people, affected 100 or more people; resulted in a declared state of emergency; or a call for international assistance, the report said.

According to the report, Asia suffered the highest number of disaster events, there were 3,068 disaster events in Asia, followed by the 1,756 events in the Americas and 1,192 events in Africa between 2000 and 2019.

Globally, in terms of affected countries, China (577 events) and the USA (467 events) reported the highest number of disaster events, followed by India (321 events), Philippines (304 events), and Indonesia (278 events).

These countries all have large and heterogenous landmasses and relatively high population densities in at-risk areas. Overall, eight of the top 10 countries by disaster events are in Asia, the report said.