The economic cost of climate-related disasters hit $2.25 billion over the last two decades, an increase of more than 250 per cent compared to the previous 20 years, the UN said on Wednesday.
The United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) noted that “climate change is increasing the frequency and severity of extreme weather events” such as tsunamis, floods and storms.
The report “Economic Losses, Poverty and Disasters 1998-2017” drills down into the Emergency Events Database (EM-DAT) maintained by the Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED) at the Catholic University of Louvain, Belgium.
In the period 1998-2017, disaster-hit countries reported direct economic losses of $2,908 billion of which climate-related disasters accounted for $2,245 billion or 77% of the total.
This compares with total reported losses for the period 1978-1997 of $1,313 billion of which climate-related disasters accounted for $895 billion or 68%.
The findings were released as Michael, a Category Four hurricane, rumbled towards the Gulf Coast of Florida, in the latest storm to threaten vast destruction across the eastern US.
“The report’s analysis makes it clear that economic losses from extreme weather events are unsustainable and a major brake on eradicating poverty in hazard exposed parts of the world,” the UN secretary general’s special representative for disaster reduction, Mami Mizutori, said in a statement.
The greatest economic losses have been experienced by the USA, $ 944.8 billion; China, $492.2 billion; Japan, $376.3 billion; India, $ 79.5 billion; and Puerto Rico, $ 71.7 billion. Storms, floods and earthquakes place three European countries in the top ten for economic losses: France, $48.3 billion; Germany, $57.9 billion; and Italy, $56.6 billion. Thailand, $ 52.4 billion, and Mexico, $ 46.5 billion, complete the list.
During this period, 1.3 million people lost their lives and 4.4 billion people were injured, rendered homeless, displaced or in need of emergency assistance. 563 earthquakes, including related tsunamis, accounted for 56% of total deaths or 747,234 lives lost.
The UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Disaster Reduction, Mami Mizutori, said: “This report highlights key trends over the last 40 years. Much needs to be done to address the high number of deaths in seismic zones. The death and suffering caused by this month’s earthquake and tsunami in Indonesia brings home the need to raise public awareness and to apply high standards for construction in seismic zones.
“The report’s analysis makes it clear that economic losses from extreme weather events are unsustainable and a major brake on eradicating poverty in hazard exposed parts of the world.
“We have to do a much better job of capturing economic loss data if we are to have a fuller understanding of what works when it comes to reducing economic losses, saving lives and livelihoods, and managing disaster risk.”
The report concludes that climate change is increasing the frequency and severity of extreme weather events, and that disasters will continue to be major impediments to sustainable development so long as the economic incentives to build and develop hazard-prone locations outweigh the perceived disaster risks.
“Integrating disaster risk reduction into investment decisions is the most cost-effective way to reduce these risks; investing in disaster risk reduction is therefore a pre-condition for developing sustainable in a changing climate,” the report states.