There has been a “staggering” rise in natural disasters over the past 20 years and the climate crisis is to blame, the United Nations said.
Researchers pointed to a failure of political and business leaders to take meaningful action to mitigate the impact of climatic change and stop the planet from turning into “an uninhabitable hell for millions of people.”
Between 2000 and 2019, there were 7,348 major natural disasters — including earthquakes, tsunamis and hurricanes — that claimed 1.23 million lives, affected 4.2 billion people and resulted in $2.97 trillion in global economic losses, according to the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR).
That’s almost double the 4,212 disasters recorded from 1980-1999, the UN said in its new report The Human Cost of Disasters 2000-2019.
The vast majority of those disasters were climate-related, with researchers reporting more flooding, storms, droughts, heatwaves, hurricanes and wildfires in the past 20 years.
The sharp increase has been attributed to rising global temperatures, which scientists say is increasing the frequency of extreme weather and disaster events. The report found floods, storms, heatwaves, droughts, hurricanes and wildfires have all significantly increased in the past 20 years.
“It is baffling that we willingly and knowingly continue to sow the seeds of our own destruction,” said UNDRR chief Mami Mizutori and Debarati Guha-Sapir of Belgium’s Center for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters, in a joint foreword to the report.
It really is all about governance if we want to deliver this planet from the scourge of poverty, further loss of species and biodiversity, the explosion of urban risk and the worst consequences of global warming.”
Asia was the worst hit from climate disasters in the past 20 years, suffering from 3,068 disaster events between 2000 and 2019. That was followed by 1,756 disasters in the Americas and 1,192 in Africa.
Among the deadliest — considered mega disasters because they each killed more than 100,000 people — were the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami, the 2008 Cyclone Nargis in Myanmar, and the 2010 Haiti earthquake.
Currently, the world is on course for a temperature increase of 3.2 degrees Celsius or more, unless industrialized nations can drastically cut their greenhouse gas emissions.
That projected temperature increase is enough to increase the frequency of extreme climate events across the world, the report said, rendering any improvements to disaster response or climate adaptation “obsolete in many countries.”
Emissions will need to be reduced by at least 7.2% every year over the next 10 years in order to achieve the 1.5 degree target agreed in Paris. (CNN)