Story at a glance

  • More than 475,000 people were killed as a direct result of about 11,000 extreme weather events between 2000 and 2019.
  • Puerto Rico, Myanmar and Haiti were the countries most affected overall by extreme weather events over the past 20 years, while Mozambique, Zimbabwe and the Bahamas were the most affected countries in 2019.
  • Evidence is mounting that human-caused global warming is making extreme weather events more common and more intense.

Natural disasters linked to extreme weather events have killed nearly half a million people worldwide over the last two decades, according to a report published by environmental think tank Germanwatch. 

The Global Climate Risk Index 2021 report released this week found that between the year 2000 and 2019, more than 475,000 people were killed as a direct result of more than 11,000 extreme weather events such as storms, flooding and heat waves globally. Germanwatch calculated that the disasters have amounted to losses of about $2.56 trillion. 


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The report found that the world’s poorest countries have been hit the hardest. 

Puerto Rico, Myanmar and Haiti were the countries most affected by extreme weather events over the past 20 years, while Mozambique, Zimbabwe and the Bahamas were the most affected countries in 2019. 

The 2019 storm season produced cyclones and hurricanes that slammed parts of the Caribbean, east Africa and south Asia. Both Mozambique and Zimbabwe were slammed by Idai, the deadliest cyclone ever recorded in the Indian Ocean. 

“Signs of escalating climate change can no longer be ignored — on any continent or in any region. Impacts from extreme-weather events hit the poorest countries hardest as these are particularly vulnerable to the damaging effects of a hazard, have a lower coping capacity and may need more time to rebuild and recover,” the report states. 

As global temperature records continue to be broken year after year — 2020 tied with 2016 as the warmest year ever recorded — evidence is mounting that human-caused global warming is making extreme weather events more common and more intense. 

Last year, the U.S. experienced record wildfires, hurricanes and snowfall in some parts of the country. 

California saw its worst wildfire season on record, with more than 4.1 million acres burned and five of six of the largest wildfires in the state’s history taking place in 2020. 

In the Atlantic, a record-breaking 30 named storms, including 12 that made landfall in the continental United States, were recorded last year. 


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Published on Jan 26, 2021