Climate Changing and Destroying: Economic Cost of Weather Disasters Rising as Early Warnings Help Save Lives

Climate Changing and Destroying: Economic Cost of Weather Disasters Rising as Early Warnings Help Save Lives

ROME - Economic losses caused by natural disasters have soared in recent years. But early warnings and coordinated disaster management have drastically reduced the human death toll over the past half-century. More than 90 percent of deaths reported worldwide have occurred in low-income or developing countries.

Early warning for everyone. The United Nations' goal is to ensure that every person on Earth is protected against extreme weather events by early warning systems by the end of 2027. Early warnings are a proven and effective climate adaptation measure, which saves lives and provides at least a tenfold return on investment. However, only half of the countries have early warning systems in place and coverage is particularly low in small island developing states and Africa. The initiative, currently under discussion in a series of meetings chaired by the WMO, is led by theWorld Meteorological Organizationthe United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction, the International Telecommunication Union, the International Federation of Telecommunication Companies Red Cross and Red Crescentwith the support of over twenty other United Nations agencies and a wide range of stakeholders, from financial institutions to the private sector.

The data available. Deaths related to extreme weather events recorded in 2020 and 2021 reach 22,608 and indicate a decrease in mortality compared to the annual average of the previous decade, thanks to the early warning system. Economic losses, on the other hand, have increased, but with different impacts in different countries.

Economic damage in developed economies. More than sixty per cent of economic losses from weather, climate and water-related disasters have been recorded in advanced economies, but these losses are generally equivalent to less than 0.1 per cent of GDP. There were no reported disasters with economic losses exceeding 3.5 percent of gross domestic product.

Economic damage in less developed economies. In the least developed countries, however, 7 percent of disasters had an impact equivalent to more than 5 percent of GDP, with events causing economic losses of up to 30 percent. In Small Island Developing States, 20 per cent of climate disasters with confirmed economic losses had an impact equivalent to more than 5 per cent of GDP, with some events causing 100 per cent economic losses.

In Africa. Between 1970 and 2021, 1,839 disasters attributed to extreme weather, climate and water conditions have been reported. The toll is 733,585 dead and $43 billion in losses. The drought caused 95 percent of the deaths. Tropical Cyclone Idai in March 2019 was the costliest event to occur in Africa at $2.1 billion.

In Asia. There were 3,612 disasters attributed to extreme weather reported, resulting in 984,263 deaths and $1.4 trillion in losses. Between 1970 and 2021, Asia accounted for 47 percent of all reported deaths worldwide. Tropical cyclone Nargis in 2008 caused 138,366 deaths. Bangladesh has the highest death toll: 520,758 deaths from 281 extreme weather events.

In Latin America. There were 943 disasters attributed to severe weather conditions, 61 per cent of which were floods. 58,484 people died while economic losses amounted to 115.2 billion dollars.

North America, Central America and the Caribbean. 2,107 extreme events that caused the death of 77,454 people and economic losses of two trillion dollars. Between 1970 and 2021, the region experienced 46 percent of the world's economic losses. The United States alone has lost $1.7 trillion or 39 percent of world losses over the past 51 years. The most common and most devastating natural phenomena in this area are cyclones.

Southwest Pacific. There were 1,493 disasters reported due to extreme weather, climate and water conditions. They resulted in 66,951 deaths and $185.8 billion in economic losses. Tropical cyclones were the leading cause of death.

Europe. 1,784 disasters causing 166,492 deaths and $562 billion in economic losses. Between 1970 and 2021, Europe recorded 8 percent of the deaths recorded worldwide. Extreme temperatures were the leading cause of death and floods the leading cause of economic losses.

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