Climate-related and geophysical disasters such as earthquakes and tsunamis have killed 1.3 million people over the last 20 years and left a further 4.4 billion injured, homeless or in need of emergency assistance, UN experts said on Wednesday.
The findings, published by the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR), also show that people in low- and middle-income countries are seven times more likely to die from natural disasters than those in developed nations.
“This puts a big emphasis on the need to…make sure that we curb greenhouse gas emissions,” said Ricardo Mena, UNISDR chief, in charge of implementing the Sendai Framework.
Failing to do this, risks letting climate-related hazards get out of control, he told journalists in Geneva, before calling for greater investment in disaster risk-reduction measures, “so that we do not allow for countries to create new risk”.
In terms of the impact of disasters on the global economy between 1998 and 2017, affected countries reported direct losses of $2.908 trillion. That’s more than twice what was lost in the previous two decades.
Illustrating the growing threat from climate change, extreme weather events now account for 77 per cent of total economic losses, $2.245 trillion, the report notes.
This represents a “dramatic rise” of 151 per cent compared with losses reported between 1978 and 1997, which amounted to $895 billion.