Climate disasters quintupled in the last 50 years and caused significant damage, although the improvement in alert systems allowed the number of deaths to be reduced, the UN reported in a report on Wednesday.
The UN World Meteorological Organization (WMO) studied the frequency, mortality and economic losses caused by disasters linked to extreme weather events between 1970 and 2019.
“The number of these extreme events is increasing. Due to climate change they will be more frequent and severe in many parts of the world “WMO Secretary General Petteri Taalas said in a statement.
In total, more than 11,000 disasters attributed to these extreme events around the world since 1970. It is estimated that they caused more than two million deaths and material losses that exceed 3.64 trillion dollars.
New Orleans after Katrina in 2005. AP Photo
Hurricane Ida that hit Louisiana and Mississippi is a prime example. According to Taalas it could be the most expensive meteorological catastrophe in history, surpassing Hurricane Katrina in 2005, in New Orleans, It cost 163.6 billion dollars.
“The difference this time” was preventionsaid Mami Mizutori, who heads the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR), since, according to provisional balances, there were less than half a dozen deaths.
Mizutori recalled that, after Katrina, New Orleans invested 14,500 million dollars in anti-flood devices and levees.
One per day
According to the WMO, it could be said that on average there has been a climate-related disaster every day for the last 50 years, which has caused the death of 115 people and material losses of 202 million dollars per day.
The organization specified that more than 91% of deaths it occurred in developing countries.
The levee system to prevent disasters in New Orleans, after Katrina. AFP photo
Droughts were responsible for the most serious human losses during that period, with about 650,000 deaths, while the storms have left more than 577,000 dead.
The floods have claimed some 59,000 lives in the last 50 years and extreme temperatures nearly 56,000 deaths, according to the report.
In turn, the report determined that, despite the increase in these extreme weather events, the number of deaths dropped significantly.
The balance went from more than 50,000 deaths annuallys in the 1970s to less than 20,000 as of 2010, the WMO noted.
That is, while from 1970 to 1980 an average of 170 daily deaths linked to weather events, the figure dropped to 90 in the 90s and 40 in the 2010s.
Taalas noted that advances in alert and management systems have reduced deaths. “Simply, we are better prepared than ever to save lives, “he said.
Still, the WMO warned that much remains to be done because only half of the organization’s 193 member countries they have alert systems.
He also warned of the need for improve meteorological observation networks in countries of Africa, in certain areas of Latin America and in islands of the Pacific and the Caribbean.
Mami Mizutori celebrated in the statement the lives that they have been saved thanks to the alert systems.
But he also admitted that “the number of people exposed to risks increases due to the growth of the population in areas that can suffer disasters, since the frequency and intensity increasing numbers of these phenomena “.
And while early warning systems save lives, they do not protect from the economic losses caused by these disasters.
In fact, between 2010 and 2019 383 million dollars were reported a day in damages, seven times more than the 49 million dollars a day recorded in the 1970s.
Seven of the 10 costliest disasters of the last 50 years occurred after 2005, three only in 2017.
It is about Hurricanes Harvey, which caused damage of almost 97,000 million dollars, María, with damages of 70,000 million dollars, and Irma, nearly $ 60 billion.