The United Nations World Meteorological Organisation (WMO), has said extreme weather events are responsible for the deaths of two million people and about $4.3 trillion in economic damages in the past five decades.
According to the new figures published on Monday, the WMO, which is the UN’s authoritative voice on weather, climate and water, said 11,778 weather-related disasters have occurred from 1970 to 2021, and they have increased over that period.
“Extreme weather, climate and water-related events caused 11 778 reported disasters between 1970 and 2021, with just over 2 million deaths and US$ 4.3 trillion in economic losses, according to new figures presented to #MeteoWorld.
the WMO said in a tweet posted on its official page on Monday.
Extreme weather, climate and water-related events caused 11 778 reported disasters between 1970 and 2021, with just over 2 million deaths and US$ 4.3 trillion in economic losses, according to new figures presented to #MeteoWorld.https://t.co/nghvQG67OY pic.twitter.com/UzikT8zh2g
— World Meteorological Organization (@WMO) May 22, 2023
The WMO report hinted that more than 90 per cent of deaths reported worldwide due to these disasters occurred in developing countries.
“The most vulnerable communities unfortunately bear the brunt of weather, climate and water-related hazards,” WMO chief, Petteri Taalas, was quoted to have said in a statement.
He said Cyclone Mocha, which wreaked havoc in Myanmar and Bangladesh last week, exemplified the extreme weather reality.
Mr Taalas said the severe storm “caused widespread devastation, … impacting the poorest of the poor”.
Much the same was experienced in Nigeria, last year. Between September and October last year, floods disrupted many communities across 36 States of Africa’s most populous country. Hundreds of villages and urban centres were submerged in water.
According to official statistics, the flood disaster unsettled over 2.4 million people, and over 600 fatalities were recorded within this period.
Similarly, expansive hectares of farmlands across affected states were swept off.
While many Nigerians described the flooding incident as the worst aftermath of climate change Nigeria has witnessed since the nation recorded a similar disaster in 2012, environmentalists argued that the impact of the floods would have been minimal had the necessary infrastructures needed to control floods across zones in the country been properly maintained by the government.
The significance of early warnings
In the latest report, the WMO said improved early warning systems and coordinated disaster management had significantly reduced human casualties.
Mr Taalas noted that during disasters similar to Mocha in the past, “both Myanmar and Bangladesh suffered death tolls of tens and even hundreds of thousands of people.”
Although Myanmar’s military government has put the death toll from the latest cyclone at 145, there are fears the number is higher.
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In a 2021 report covering disaster-linked deaths and losses from 1970 to 2019, the agency hinted that at the beginning of the period, the world saw more than 50,000 such deaths each year. By the 2010s, it said the disaster death toll had dropped to below 20,000 annually.
Between 2020 and 2021, the WMO said Monday that 22,608 disaster fatalities were recorded globally.
“Thanks to early warnings and disaster management these catastrophic mortality rates are now thankfully history,” the report said.
“Early warnings save lives,” it added.
It was noted that the UN has launched a plan to ensure all nations are covered by disaster early warning systems by the end of 2027. To date, only half of the world’s countries have such systems in place, the report said.
Meanwhile, the WMO warned that while deaths have plunged, the economic losses incurred in weather-related disasters have increased.
The agency said they had previously recorded economic losses had increased sevenfold from 1970 to 2019, rising from $49 million per day during the first decade to $383 million per day in the final one.
“Wealthy countries have been hardest hit by far in monetary terms,” it said
Developed nations accounted for more than 60 per cent of losses due to weather, climate and water disasters, but in more than four-fifths of cases, the economic losses for each disaster were equivalent to less than 0.1 percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP), the report says.
This report is produced in fulfilment of the UNESCO & CIJ London Climate Change in News Media project facilitated by the Centre for Journalism Innovation and Development.
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