Surge in natural disasters takes heavy human and economic toll: UN

  • >> Reuters
    Published: 2020-10-12 20:51:16 BdST

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Eugene Boonie, 55, who is from Navajo Nation, fills up his water tank at the livestock water spigot in the Bodaway Chapter in the Navajo Nation, in Gap, Arizona, U.S. September 17, 2020. Due to the lack of water infrastructure and a drought that is drying up traditional watering holes, livestock owners haul water to their livestock. "We have to come here to get our water about every other day. Pretty much everyone in this area gets their water here. We used to be able to get water from the rainwater but it just has not been raining this summer or even for the past couple years," said Boonie. Reuters

Extreme weather events have increased dramatically in the past 20 years, taking a heavy human and economic toll worldwide, and are likely to wreak further havoc, the United Nations said on Monday.

Heatwaves and droughts will pose the greatest threat in the next decade, as temperatures continue to rise due to heat-trapping gases, experts said.

China (577) and the United States (467) recorded the highest number of disaster events from 2000 to 2019, followed by India (321), the Philippines (304) and Indonesia (278), the UN said in a report issued the day before the International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction. Eight of the top 10 countries are in Asia.

Some 7,348 major disaster events were recorded globally, claiming 1.23 million lives, affecting 4.2 billion people and causing $2.97 trillion in economic losses during the two-decade period.

Drought, floods, earthquakes, tsunamis, wildfires and extreme temperature events caused major damage.

"The good news is that more lives have been saved but the bad news is that more people are being affected by the expanding climate emergency," Mami Mizutori, the UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Disaster Risk Reduction, told a news briefing.

She called for governments to invest in early warning systems and implement disaster risk reduction strategies.

Debarati Guha-Sapir of the Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters at the University of Louvain, Belgium, which provided data for the report, said: "If this level of growth in extreme weather events continues over the next twenty years, the future of mankind looks very bleak indeed.

"Heatwaves are going to be our biggest challenge in the next 10 years, especially in the poor countries," she said.

Last month was the world's hottest September on record, with unusually high temperatures recorded off Siberia, in the Middle East, and in parts of South America and Australia, the European Union's Copernicus Climate Change Service said.

Global temperatures will continue to warm over the next five years, and may even temporarily rise to more than 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) said in July. Scientists have set 1.5C (2.7 Fahrenheit) as the ceiling for avoiding catastrophic climate change.