The UN’s weather agency the World Meteorological Foundation has released a report stating that extreme weather disasters are occurring four to five times more in the present moment than they did in the 1970s.
The agency also said that today’s disasters are causing seven times more destruction than their forebears, but are killing much less people. An average of 170 people died due to weather events daily in the 1970s and 1980s. That rate dropped a tremendous amount by the 2010s, where the daily death toll due to weather events is just 40.
The report takes a look at the past half-century of extreme weather events, taking stock of how they affected the different regions they struck both in community upheaval and fatalities.
“The good news is that we have been able to minimize the number of casualties once we have started having a growing amount of disasters: heatwaves, flooding events, drought, and especially … intense tropical storms like Ida, which has been hitting recently Louisiana and Mississippi in the United States,” Petteri Taalas, WMO’s secretary-general, said in a conference with the press.
“But the bad news is that the economic losses have been growing very rapidly and this growth is supposed to continue,” he added. “We are going to see more climatic extremes because of climate change, and these negative trends in climate will continue for the coming decades.”
UN’s report finds contemporary weather disasters bring more destruction but less death
There was an average of 711 weather catastrophes per year in the 1970s. That figure increased drastically by the early 21st century to 3,536 a year, tapering off a bit in the 2010s to 3,165. The report made its findings from data compiled by the Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disaster in Belgium.
Storms, flooding, and drought lead the report in fatalities and destruction for the 50 year-period studied. Over 90% of the 2 million deaths reported occurred in developing nations, while almost 60% of the damage impacted wealthy nations.
The world’s recovery from environmental catastrophes in the 1970s cost $175 billion dollars when adjusted to 2019 dollars. The recent contemporary era between 2010 to 2019 cost a whooping $1.38 trillion.
The report concluded that the costly damage is due to more people relocating to areas that are at a high risk for extreme weather events due to climate change. As we shift into a new era of the climate crisis, catastrophes become much more frequent– and much more severe, the UN said. The strength of networked communication, weather forecasting, and preparedness has helped lessen the amount of deaths.
“On the other hand, we’re still making stupid decisions about where we’re putting our infrastructure,” said Susan Cutter, the director of the Hazards and Vulnerability Research Institute at the University of South Carolina. “But it’s OK. We’re not losing lives, we’re just losing stuff.”