There has been a five-fold increase in the number of weather-related disasters globally over a period of 50 years, showed a report released on Wednesday by the World Meteorological Organization.
The document from the United Nations agency said that between 1970 and 2019, a total of 11,000 such disasters took place. They led to “just over 2 million deaths and $3.64 trillion [approximately Rs 266 lakh crore] in losses”, the report added.
The World Meteorological Organization attributed the surge in droughts, storms, extreme temperatures and floods to climate change as well as better reporting of disasters.
Droughts led to the maximum number of deaths (6,50,000) between 1970 and 2019, followed by storms (5,77,232), floods (58,700) and extreme temperatures (55,736).
According to the World Meteorological Organization, more than 91% of the deaths took place in developing countries.
However, because of better disaster management and improvements in warning systems, the number of deaths due to weather-related disaster reduced from 50,000 in the 1970s to 20,000 in the 2010s.
On the other hand, economic losses increased seven times during that period, the UN agency’s report said. Three hurricanes – Harvey, Maria and Irma – that hit the United States in 2017 alone accounted for 35% of the economic losses caused by weather disasters from 1970 to 2019.
World Meteorological Organization’s General Secretary Petteri Taalas said that climate change will cause extreme weather events to become more frequent and severe.
“That means more heatwaves, drought and forest fires such as those we have observed recently in Europe and North America,” Taalas said.
The official added: “We have more water vapour in the atmosphere, which is exacerbating extreme rainfall and deadly flooding. The warming of the oceans has affected the frequency and area of existence of the most intense tropical storms.”
The UN agency said that though the reduction in number of deaths due to weather-related disasters was a sign of hope, more work needed to be done.
“More international cooperation is needed to tackle the chronic problem of huge numbers of people being displaced each year by floods, storms and drought,” UN official Mami Mizutori said.
The official added: “We need greater investment in comprehensive disaster risk management ensuring that climate change adaptation is integrated in national and local disaster risk reduction strategies.”
This is the second report from the United Nations in less than a month about the impact of climate change.
On August 9, the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change had said in its document that over the next 20 years, global temperatures were likely to rise by more than 1.5 degrees Celsius on an average.
India will begin to see greater impact of climate change, including glacial retreat in the Hindu Kush Himalayas, compounding effects of rising sea levels, unpredictable monsoon, and severe tropical cyclones that will lead to floods, the report had added.