A comprehensive report released by the United Nations’ World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) has highlighted the staggering consequences of extreme weather events over the past 50 years. The study unveils a distressing reality, with 2 million lives lost and a staggering $4.3 trillion in economic damages caused by weather-related disasters. These figures underline the urgent need for global attention and concerted efforts to address the escalating impact of climate change.
The report from the WMO reveals a significant rise in weather-related disasters, with 11,778 incidents occurring between 1970 and 2021. Shockingly, more than 90 percent of the reported deaths resulting from these disasters have taken place in developing countries. WMO chief Petteri Taalas acknowledged the disproportionate impact on vulnerable communities, emphasising their unfortunate susceptibility to weather, climate, and water-related hazards.
Highlighting the devastating aftermath of Cyclone Mocha, which recently struck Myanmar and Bangladesh, Taalas underscored the disproportionate effects on the poorest segments of society. However, the WMO report also recognised the positive impact of improved early warning systems and coordinated disaster management, leading to a significant reduction in human casualties. The WMO chief points out that past disasters similar to Mocha resulted in death tolls reaching tens and even hundreds of thousands, illustrating the progress made in saving lives through timely interventions.
The report’s update reveals an encouraging decline in disaster-related deaths. In the 2021 report covering the period from 1970 to 2019, the WMO noted an annual average of over 50,000 deaths. By the 2010s, this figure had dropped to less than 20,000 deaths per year. The report published on Monday highlights a combined total of 22,608 disaster deaths were recorded globally in 2020 and 2021 combined.
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 agency previously recorded economic losses had increased sevenfold from 1970 to 2019, rising from $49m per day during the first decade to $383m per day in the final one. Developed nations accounted for more than 60 percent 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).