For the past 20 years than in the previous two decades, according to a UN study, the number of climate-related disasters was 82-percent higher.
The UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR) in Geneva said on Monday that there were around 6,700 such natural disasters, which include floods, storms, droughts and wildfires, between 2000 and 2019. In the 1980-1999 period, there were only around 3,700 climate-related events that caused destruction and human deaths.
This sharp rise in climate-related disasters accounts for much of the overall increase in the number of natural disasters between the two, 20-year periods, from 4,200 to 7,300. “We are willfully destructive. That is the only conclusion one can come to when reviewing disaster events over the last 20 years,” UNDRR chief Mami Mizutori said.
The UN office has also reported that catastrophic volcanic activity and earthquakes have increased since 2000. The 2004 tsunami in the Indian Ocean has been the deadliest disaster so far this century, with nearly 230,000 victims, followed by the 2010 Haiti earthquake that killed some 220,000 people, and Cyclone Nargis that left 140,000 people dead in Myanmar in 2008.
Heatwaves in Europe in 2003 and in Russia in 2010 claimed around 72,000 and 56,000 lives, respectively. The Center for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters at Louvain University,Debarati Guha-Sapi said If this level of growth in extreme weather events continues over the next 20 years, the future of mankind looks very bleak indeed,.
The Belgian research center’s comprehensive database on natural and technological disasters was used for the UN study. As flooding has affected 1.65 billion people since the turn of the millennium, more than any other type of event, the UNDDR says that building flood control should be seen as a development priority.
“Better flood control is one ‘low-hanging fruit'” in disaster risk reduction, the UN office said, pointing out that there are cheap and proven technologies to build dams. UNDRR also advocates cyclone shelters, wind-resistant buildings and forests to protect against storm hazards.
In addition, the report says thousands of lives can be saved through improved early warning systems. Strategies are also needed to help people cope with droughts, the report says, pointing out that Africa has seen 40 percent of the world’s droughts in the past two decades.