A “staggering” rise in climate disasters has marked the first 20 years of the 21st century, and industrial nations are “failing miserably” to reduce climate-change-enhancing emissions, a United Nations agency said Tuesday, the International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction.
“It is baffling that we willingly and knowingly continue to sow the seeds of our own destruction, despite the science and evidence that we are turning our only home into an uninhabitable hell for millions of people,” said the co-authors of a new report, “The Human Cost of Disasters 2000-2019.”
The UN Office on Disaster Risk Reduction issued an urgent call to countries, especially industrialized nations, to better prepare for catastrophic events of all kinds, from earthquakes and tsunamis to the new coronavirus.
“Disaster management agencies have succeeded in saving many lives through improved preparedness and the dedication of staff and volunteers,” agency chief Mami Mizutori, who is also special representative of the secretary general for disaster risk reduction, said in a statement. “But the odds continue to be stacked against them, in particular by industrial nations that are failing miserably on reducing greenhouse gas emissions.”
The last two decades have seen no fewer than 7,348 disaster events that killed 1.23 million people, or about 60,000 per year, deaths that affected four billion people, the UN panel said. The death rate was four times higher in poorer nations than richer ones, the report said.
As if the effects on people weren’t enough, the streak also wiped out $2.97 trillion from the global economy.
In contrast, from 1980 to 1999, there were 4,212 natural disasters, 1.19 million deaths, more than 3 billion people affected and $1.63 trillion in economic losses, the report said.
The main driver of this increase is climate change, the UN agency said. Floods accounted for more than 40% of the disasters, affecting 1.65 billion people, while storms came in at 28 %, earthquakes at 8% and extreme temperatures at 6%.
The world is currently well on its way to a 3.2-degree Celsius temperature increase, CNN reported, absent a drastic cut in greenhouse gas emissions that doesn’t seem forthcoming. That would require emissions reduction of 7.2% annually for 10 years, CNN said.
“This is clear evidence that in a world where the global average temperature in 2019 was 1.1 degrees Celsius above the pre-industrial period, the impacts are being felt in the increased frequency of extreme weather events including heat waves, droughts, flooding, winter storms, hurricanes and wildfires,” the UN Office on Disaster Risk Reduction reported.
Also on Tuesday, the World Meteorological Agency, another UN body, warned that by 2030, 50% more people will need weather-related humanitarian aid than the 108 million who needed it in 2018, the Associated Press reported.
More than 11,000 disasters can be attributed to water-related weather events over the past 50 years, the agency said, events that have caused 2 million deaths and cost the world economy $3.6 trillion.
As coronavirus-stricken President Trump held maskless rallies across the U.S. this week, the UN Office on Disaster Risk Reduction decried the “wave of death and unleashed across the globe” by not just the pandemic itself but also governments' lackluster response, “despite many urgings to do so from a plethora of experts,” UN Office on Disaster Risk Reduction chief Mami Mizutori and Debarati Guha-Sapir of Belgium’s Center for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters said in a joint forward to the report.
“If we do not change course by 2020,” UN Secretary-General António Guterres said, “we risk missing the point where we can avoid runaway climate change, with disasu00adtrous consequences for people and all the natural systems that sustain us.”
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