Weather of Arabia - Geneva, May 22, 2023 (World Meteorological Organization) - According to new figures released by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), between 1970 and 2021, 11,778 disasters were reported as a result of extreme events related to weather, climate and water. These disasters have claimed more than two million lives and resulted in economic losses of US$4.3 trillion.
Although economic losses have risen to enormous levels, human losses have declined over the past half century thanks to improved early warnings and coordination of disaster management. However, more than 90% of all reported deaths worldwide occurred in developing countries.
The United States alone incurred losses of $1.7 trillion, which represents 39% of the total economic losses recorded worldwide over the past 51 years. But the cost of losses incurred by LDCs and SIDS has been very high and disproportionate to the size of their economies.
WMO released these new figures ahead of the quadrennial World Meteorological Congress. This conference will open on 22 May with a high-level discussion on ways to accelerate and scale up efforts to ensure that early warning services reach every person on Earth by the end of 2027.
The United Nations Early Warning for All initiative is among the top strategic priorities to be endorsed by the World Meteorological Congress, the supreme deciding body of WMO. The high-level session of the Conference will be opened by Swiss President Alain Berset, which will bring together senior representatives of United Nations agencies, development banks, governments and national meteorological and hydrological services responsible for issuing early warnings.
“Unfortunately, it is the most vulnerable communities who bear the brunt of weather, climate and water-related risks,” said WMO Secretary-General Professor Petteri Taalas.
He added, "Perhaps the very severe cyclonic storm 'Mocha' is a good example of this. This storm caused massive devastation in Myanmar and Bangladesh, causing great harm to the poorest of the poor. In the past, Myanmar and Bangladesh had suffered heavy human losses estimated in the dozens, even hundreds. "Thousands of lives. Thankfully, thanks to early warnings and good disaster management, these catastrophic death rates are just a reminder of the past. Early warnings really do save lives."
WMO compiled these figures in the context of updating its Atlas of Deaths and Economic Losses from Extreme Weather, Climate and Water, whose data, from CRED's International Disaster Database (EM-DAT), were limited to Beginning with the fifty-year period between 1970 and 2019.
The number of deaths recorded in 2020 and 2021 (22,608 deaths in total) showed that the death rate witnessed a further decline compared to the annual rate of the previous decade, while economic losses, most of which are related to storm categories, witnessed a significant increase in contrast.
Tropical Cyclone Idai, which struck Africa in March 2019, was the costliest disaster on the African continent ($2.1 billion).
Between 1970 and 2021, Asia accounted for 47% of all deaths reported worldwide, with tropical cyclones the main cause of these deaths. In 2008, Tropical Cyclone Nargis struck the Asian continent, killing 138,366 people. Bangladesh recorded the highest number of deaths in Asia, as it witnessed 281 natural disasters, killing 520,758 people.
Between 1970 and 2021, the region recorded the equivalent of 46% of the economic losses reported worldwide. The United States alone incurred losses of $1.7 trillion, which is 39% of the economic losses recorded worldwide over the past 51 years. Most of the reported economic losses are attributed to storm-related disasters, mainly tropical cyclones.
Between 1970 and 2021, the region accounted for 8% of the economic losses reported worldwide.
Extreme temperatures were the main cause of reported deaths, while floods were the main cause of economic losses recorded.
The Secretary-General of the United Nations, António Guterres, intends to ensure that every person on Earth is protected through early warning systems by the end of 2027.
Early warning systems have proven to be an effective coping mechanism for climate change, saving lives and generating revenues ten times greater than their cost. However, early warning systems are still available in only half of the world's countries, and their coverage is still limited, particularly in Small Island Developing States, Least Developed Countries and the African continent.
The early warning initiative enjoys widespread support. WMO is leading the implementation of this initiative, together with the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction, the International Telecommunication Union and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, with the support of more than two dozen other UN agencies, and a wide and diverse group of stakeholders, From financial institutions to the private sector.
A first group of thirty countries has been identified to start implementing the initiative in 2023.
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