The first 20 years of this century saw a “staggering” rise in climate disasters and “almost all nations” failed to prevent a “wave of death and illness” caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, according to UN researchers.
From 2000 to 2019, the world saw 7,348 major disaster events claiming 1.23 million lives, affecting 4.2 billion people and resulting in approximately 2.97 trillion dollars in global economic losses, according to a report of the United Nations Disaster Risk Reduction.
The report “Human Cost of Disasters 2000-2019” pointed out that this was a sharp increase over the previous twenty years. The world saw 4,212 disasters linked to natural hazards worldwide between 1980 and 1999. These disasters claimed about 1.19 million lives and affected 3.25 billion people resulting in approximately 1.63 trillion dollar in economic losses.
The report stressed that the difference was because of climate-related disasters including extreme weather events: from 3,656 climate-related events (1980-1999) to 6,681 climate-related disasters in the period 2000-2019. The UNDRR said that major floods doubled in the last twenty years from 1,389 to 3,254 and storms grew from 1,457 to 2,034.
The UN experts also said that climate change impacts are felt in increased frequency of extreme weather events such as heatwaves, droughts, flooding, winter storms, hurricanes and wildfires.
“Despite the pledge made by the international community in Paris in 2015 to reduce global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, it was baffling that nations were continuing knowingly to sow the seeds of our own destruction,’ UNDRR chief Mami Mizutori said.
Mizutori said that disaster management agencies have succeeded in saving many lives through improved preparedness. “But the odds continue to be stacked against them, in particular by industrial nations that are failing miserably on reducing greenhouse gas emissions,”
The report noted that shifting rainfall patterns posed a risk to the 70 per cent of global agriculture. Despite the fact that extreme weather events have become so regular in last 20 years, only 93 countries have implemented disaster risk strategies at a national level ahead of the end-of-year deadline, Mizutori said.
She said that disaster risk governance depends on political leadership. Paris agreement and the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction were adopted, she said and added “but the sad fact is that we are wilfully destructive. And that is the conclusion of this report; COVID-19 is but the latest proof that politicians and business leaders have yet to tune into the world around them,” she noted.