• Monday, June 17, 2024
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Extreme weather caused 2mn deaths, $4 trn economic losses in 50 years- UN

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Extreme weather events turbo-charged by man-made global warming have caused over two million deaths and $4.3 trillion in economic losses over the last 50 years, says s statement by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO).

According to WMO, weather, climate, and water-related hazards caused close to 12,000 disasters between 1970 and 2021. Developing countries were hit hardest, seeing nine in 10 deaths and 60 percent of economic losses from climate shocks and extreme weather.

The agency said that least-developed countries and small island developing states suffered a “disproportionately” high cost in relation to the size of their economies.

“The most vulnerable communities, unfortunately, bear the brunt of weather, climate, and water-related hazards,” said Petteri Taalas, secretary-general, of WMO.

Staggering inequalities

In least-developed countries, WMO says that several disasters over the past half-century have caused economic losses of up to 30 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP).

However, in small island developing states, one in five disasters had an impact “equivalent to more than five percent” of GDP, with some disasters wiping out countries’ entire GDP.

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“Asia saw the highest death toll due to extreme weather, climate and water-related events over the past 50 years, with close to one million deaths – more than half in Bangladesh alone,” WMO said.

“In Africa, WMO said that droughts accounted for 95 per cent of the reported 733,585 climate disaster deaths.”

Early warning saves lives

The meteorological agency added that improved early warnings and coordinated disaster management have helped mitigate the deadly impact of disasters. “Early warnings save lives,” Taalas said.

The UN agency also noted that recorded deaths for 2020 and 2021 were lower than the previous decade’s average.

Pointing to the example of last week’s severe cyclonic storm Mocha, which caused devastation in Myanmar’s and Bangladesh’s coastal areas and hit “the poorest of the poor”, Taalas said that similar weather disasters in the past caused “death tolls of tens and even hundreds of thousands” in both countries.

“Thanks to early warnings and disaster management these catastrophic mortality rates are now history,” he said.

The agency added that just 24 hours notice prior to an impending weather hazard can cut the ensuing damage by 30 per cent, calling early warnings the “low-hanging fruit” of climate change adaptation because of their tenfold return on investment.

“Currently, only half of the world is covered by early warning systems, with small island developing states and least developed countries left far behind,” WMO said.