Climate: the number of disasters has multiplied by five in 50 years, according to the UN

According to the Atlas of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), one of the United Nations organizations, extreme weather, climatic and hydrological disasters increased fivefold from 1970 to 2019.

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“The number of extreme weather, climate and hydrological events continues to increase. As a result of climate change, they will become more frequent and more violent in many parts of the world ”, said the secretary general of the UN agency, Petteri Taalas, in a press release.

91% of deaths in developing countries

In total, more than 11,000 disasters attributed to these phenomena have been reported over the past five decades worldwide, resulting in just over two million deaths and property damage amounting to $ 3,640 billion (more of 3,080 billion euros).

On average, one meteorological, climatic or hydrological disaster has been recorded every day for the past fifty years, resulting in the deaths of 115 people and damage totaling $ 202 million every day. More than 91% of these deaths occurred in developing countries.

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Droughts have been responsible for the greatest loss of life in the past fifty years, killing some 650,000, followed by storms (over 577,000 dead), flooding (58,700 dead) and extreme temperatures ( nearly 56,000 dead).

Warning systems: not all equal

Nevertheless, improved early warning systems and disaster management have resulted in a considerable reduction in mortality. The death toll has been reduced from over 50,000 per year in the 1970s to less than 20,000 in the 2010s. “We are simply better armed than ever to save lives”, underlined Petteri Taalas.

But much remains to be done: only half of WMO’s 193 members have multi-hazard early warning systems. The organization also calls for improved meteorological and hydrological observation networks in Africa, parts of Latin America, and Pacific and Caribbean island states.

Mami Mizutori, who heads the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR), warned in the statement that “The number of people exposed to disaster risks continues to increase due to population growth in risk areas and due to the greater intensity of meteorological phenomena, and their increasing frequency”.

Harvey, Maria, Irma, very costly disasters

As for economic losses, they jumped from an average of $ 49 million per day in the 1970s to $ 383 million per day from 2010 to 2019. Storms were the most frequent cause of property damage and they are responsible for the biggest economic losses on the planet, according to the WMO.

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Seven of the ten costliest disasters of the past fifty years have occurred since 2005, including three in 2017 alone: ​​Hurricanes Harvey (which caused nearly $ 97 billion in damage), Maria (nearly $ 70 billion dollars) and Irma (nearly $ 60 billion).


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