While the world has been experiencing climate disasters such as earthquakes, tsunamis and, more recently, Covid-19 over the past 20 years, wealthy nations have done little to tackle the harmful emissions that cause climate threats.
Mami Mizutori, the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR) chief and special representative of the secretary-general for disaster risk reduction, said that, although disaster management services’ efforts had succeeded in saving many lives, greenhouse emissions were setting these efforts back.
“Disaster management agencies have succeeded in saving many lives through improved preparedness and the dedication of staff and volunteers. But the odds continue to be stacked against them, in particular by industrial nations that are failing miserably in reducing greenhouse gas emissions,” Mizutori said.
According to a UNDRR report produced together with the Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters – a research unit of the University of Louvain in Belgium – 7 348 major disaster events occurred over the past two decades.
THE REPORT SAID:
- Approximately 1.23 million people have died from disasters in the past 20 years, with poorer nations experiencing death rates more than four times higher than richer nations;
- Approximately 60 000 people have died per year in those 20 years, with more than 4 billion affected in total;
- Disasters caused about $2.97 trillion (R49.6 trillion) in losses to the global economy; and
- By comparison, the 20-year period from 1980 to 1999 saw 4 212 reported disasters from natural hazards, with 1.19 million deaths, more than 3 billion people affected and economic losses totalling $1.63 trillion.
Researchers insist that the increase in climate-related emergencies is the main reason for the spike in disasters. Floods accounted for more than 40% of disasters, affecting 1.65 billion people; storms accounted for 28%, earthquakes 8% and extreme temperatures 6%.
“This is clear evidence that, in a world where the global average temperature [last year] was 1.1°C above the pre-industrial period, the impacts are being felt in the increased frequency of extreme weather events, including heatwaves, droughts, flooding, winter storms, hurricanes and wildfires,” Mizutori said.
The report found that, despite the fact that extreme weather events had become increasingly regular over the past 20 years, only 93 countries had implemented disaster risk strategies.