UN agency: 2 million people died, 4.3 trillion dollars in damage occurred in the last half century due to extreme weather

Geneva — The economic toll from weather- and climate-related disasters continues to rise, despite improvements in early warning that have helped reduce casualties, the UN’s meteorological agency said on Monday.

In an updated report, the World Meteorological Organization counted almost 12,000 extreme weather, climate and water events worldwide over the past half century, which killed more than 2 million people and caused $4.3 trillion in economic damage.

The WMO’s scathing summary was delivered at the opening of a quadrennial congress among member countries, urging the message that more needs to be done to improve warning systems for extreme weather events by the 2027 deadline.

“Economic losses have soared. However, better early warnings and coordinated disaster management have reduced human casualties over the past half century,” the WMO said in a statement. The trend of increasing economic damage is expected to continue.

The Geneva-based agency has repeatedly warned of the effects of human-induced climate change, saying rising temperatures have increased the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events – including floods, hurricanes, cyclones, heat waves and droughts.

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According to the WMO, early warning systems have helped reduce the number of deaths related to climate and other weather disasters.

Between 1970 and 2021, the United States suffered the most economic damage—a total of $1.7 trillion—while nine out of 10 deaths worldwide occurred in developing countries. The economic impact relative to gross domestic product is felt more in developing countries, says the WMO.

WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas said Cyclone Mocha, which swept through Myanmar and Bangladesh this month, exemplified how “the most vulnerable communities are unfortunately bearing the brunt of weather, climate and water-related hazards”.

“Tens, even hundreds of thousands of people have died in both Myanmar and Bangladesh in the past,” he said, referring to previous disasters. “Thanks to early warnings and disaster management, these catastrophic death rates are now history.”

“Early warnings save lives,” he said.

The findings were part of an update of the WMO’s Atlas of Mortality and Economic Losses from Weather, Climate and Water Extremes, which previously covered a nearly 50-year period up to 2019.

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The WMO acknowledges some caveats in its report: Although the number of disasters has increased, some of this is due to improved reporting of extreme weather events that were previously overlooked.

While the results account for inflation, the WMO warned that economic toll estimates can be an inexact science and reports may underestimate the actual damage.

Worldwide, tropical cyclones have caused reported human and economic losses.

In Africa, WMO has counted more than 1,800 disasters and 733,585 deaths from weather, climate and water extremes – including floods and storm surges. The costliest was Tropical Cyclone Idai in 2019, which caused $2.1 billion in damage.

Nearly 1,500 disasters have affected the Southwest Pacific, causing 66,951 deaths and $185.8 billion in economic losses.

Asia was hit by more than 3,600 disasters that claimed 984,263 lives and $1.4 trillion in economic losses – largely due to the impact of cyclones. There were 943 disasters in South America that caused 58,484 deaths and more than $115 billion in economic losses.

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In North America, Central America, and the Caribbean, more than 2,100 disasters resulted in 77,454 deaths and $2 trillion in economic losses.

There were nearly 1,800 disasters in Europe, which led to 166,492 deaths and 562 billion dollars in economic losses.

Last week, the WMO forecast a 66% chance that over the next five years the Earth will see an average of 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) warmer than the mid-19th century, reaching the Paris key threshold targeted by the climate agreement. from 2015.


This article includes a correction to indicate that tropical cyclones were the leading cause of human and economic loss worldwide. Extreme temperatures and flooding were only the leading causes of human and economic losses in the European region.

Source: https://abcnews.go.com/International/wireStory/agency-2m-killed-43-trillion-damages-extreme-weather-99502358