A new UN report shows that over the last 20 years, 90 per cent of major disasters have been weather-related. The forecast will only get worse if an agreement is not reached at the upcoming climate summit in Paris, officials warn.
The report, entitled The Human Cost of Weather Related Disasters, found that since the first UN climate change conference (COP1) in 1995, around 606,000 people have died and 1.4 billion have been injured, left homeless or in need of emergency assistance due to weather-related disasters, which include floods, storms, heatwaves and droughts.
Pointing out that weather and climate are major drivers of disaster risk, the report “demonstrates the world is paying a high price in lives lost,” said Margareta Wahlström, head of the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR), in a news release. “Economic losses are a major development challenge for many least developed countries battling climate change and poverty,” she warned.
The five countries hit by the highest number of disasters are the United States, China, India, Philippines, and Indonesia. Asia accounts for the “lion’s share of disaster impacts”, including 332,000 deaths and 3.7 billion people affected.
The report also found that the frequency of weather-related disasters is rising. In total, an average of 335 weather-related disasters were recorded each years between 2005 and 2014, up 14 per cent from 1995-2004 and almost double that recorded from 1985-1995.
Walhström said that an agreement in Paris at COP21 to reduce greenhouse gas emissions will contribute significantly to reducing the damage and loss from disasters, which are driven in part by rising temperatures and sea levels.
Professor Debarati Guha-Sapir, head of the Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED), added that climate change and weather events are a threat to the overall Sustainable Development Goal of eliminating poverty and calls for better urban planning, environmental protection and strengthening early warnings.
Photo credit: UN Photo/Marco Dormino