Climate change is largely to blame for a near doubling of natural disasters in the past 20 years, the United Nations said as experts called yesterday for more efforts to forecast looming disasters and early action to mitigate their impact.
The UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction said 7,348 major disaster events had occurred between 2000 and 2019, claiming 1.23 lives, affecting 4.2 billion people and costing the global economy some $2.97 trillion.
The figure far outstrips the 4,212 major natural disasters recorded between 1980 and 1999, the UN office said in a new report entitled "The Human Cost of Disasters 2000-2019".
The sharp increase was largely attributable to a rise in climate-related disasters, including extreme weather events like floods, drought and storms, the report said. Extreme heat is proving especially deadly.
"We are wilfully destructive," UNDRR chief Mami Mizutori told reporters in a virtual briefing. "That is the only conclusion one can come to when reviewing disaster events over the last 20 years."
She accused governments of not doing enough to prevent climate hazards and called for better preparation for looming disasters.
While major floods had more than doubled to 3,254, there had been 2,034 major storms up from 1,457 in the prior period. The data showed that Asia has suffered the highest number of disasters in the past 20 years with 3,068 such events, followed by the Americas with 1,756 and Africa with 1,192.
Early warning systems have proven vital to reducing risks from such disasters, said WMO yesterday highlighting how such systems have helped dramatically drive down disaster-related deaths in places like Bangladesh.
The WMO report urged countries to go beyond mere forecasting of weather events and to invest in so-called "impact-based forecasting" -- a system aimed to more effectively trigger early action based on the warnings. Such systems strive to better understand and anticipate the likely human and economic impacts of severe weather. But so far, less than 40 percent of WMO's 138 member states have set up such systems, the report found.