CLIMATE CHANGE UN warns climate disasters increased by 80% in 21st century



Antonio Broto.- The world suffered 6,681 natural climate-related disasters in the first two decades of the 21st century, an 80 percent increase from the 3,656 recorded in the last 20 years of the 20th century, a UN study reveals today that shows once again the negative effects of climate change.

The research, prepared by the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR), conducted for international day for disaster risk reduction, which is commemorated today, 13 October, confirms how extreme climate events have come to dominate the 21st century landscape.

It shows that between 2000 and 2019 1.23 million people died in natural disasters (including those of climate and geological origin, such as earthquakes), which affected 4.2 billion people.

By contrast, between 1980 and 1999 natural disasters, which do not include epidemics or pandemics, caused the deaths of 1.19 million people and affected 3.25 billion.

Losses equivalent to France's annual GDP

Economic losses from these disasters amounted to $2.97 trillion (EUR 2.52 trillion) in the first two decades of the 21st century, compared to $1.63 trillion in the previous period, although the UN recognizes difficulty in calculating these figures especially in natural disasters in developing countries.

"More lives are being saved, but more people are being affected by the growing climate emergency," UN Special Representative for Disaster Prevention Mami Mizutori concluded by presenting the study.

"The risk of catastrophe has become systemic, with disasters influencing others so that our resistance is being pushed to the limit," he stressed.

The report brings out, for example, droughts have increased by 29 percent in the period 2000-2019 compared to 1980-1999, from 263 to 338, but growth has been even more striking in extreme weather events (heat and cold waves), which increased from 130 to 432, an increase of 232 percent.

At least 165,000 people died in these waves, although expert Debarati Guha-Sapir, who presented the study, stressed that many deaths in poor countries may not have been reported, as most of this data was obtained from hospitals in Europe.

The professor at the Disaster Epidemiology Research Center at the Catholic University of Leuven also noted that more than 90 percent of these deaths occurred in heat waves, with a much higher mortality rate than cold ones.

Guha-Sapir recalled that these heat waves will increase in frequency and could affect a third of the world's population if the average temperature in this century rises by two degrees, as reports of the fight against global warming warn.

Floods affect more people, earthquakes kill more

So far this century, flooding is the events that affected more people (1.65 billion), followed by droughts (1.43 billion) and storms (727 million), for only 118 million in earthquakes.

The classification varies completely if the mortality of these catastrophes is addressed, with the earthquakes killing the most people in the 21st century (721,000, 58 percent of the total), followed by storm deaths (199,000), 165,000 in extreme weather waves, and 104,000 in floods.

By region, Asia suffered the most natural disasters between 2000 and 2019 (3,068), followed by America (1,756) and Africa (1,192).

On the list of countries, China was the hardest hit. with 577 catastrophic events between 2000 and 2019, followed by the US (467), India (321), the Philippines (304) and Indonesia (278).

Guha-Sapir stressed that eight of the 10 countries where losses from these catastrophes were greatest in relation to their gross domestic product were small island nations, also the most threatened by global warming.

The Black Years: 2004, 2008 and 2010

The worst natural disaster of the century in terms of fatalities was the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, which caused 226,400 dead, followed by the 2010 Haiti earthquake (222,000) and Cyclone Nargis, which in 2008 killed some 138,000 people in Burma, Myanmar.

In Europe, the 2003 heat wave caused more than 72,000 death, and the 2010 heat wave in Russia killed 55,000 people, so they are also high on the list of worst catastrophes of this century.

The study indicates that 2004, 2008 and 2010 were the years hardest hit by such disasters, with more than 200,000 deaths in each of them, when the average century has been 60,000 and in the last decade no year went beyond 35,000.

It also shows that since 2010 there has been no catastrophic mega-event (with more than 100,000 dead) such as those in the three years mentioned.


Although the research does not cover epidemics and pandemics that have occurred in recent decades, which have also been on the rise, Mizutori stressed that COVID-19 "has served to raise public awareness of the risk around us."

"This pandemic is terrible, but the climate emergency can be even worse, so this can serve as a warning for the future," he said, adding that COVID-19 "has shown that many countries have good prevention plans but do not invest enough in them."