UN: More weather disasters and higher costs, but fewer deaths

UN: More weather disasters and higher costs, but fewer deaths
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Climate change is leading to more weather-related disasters but is resulting in fewer deaths, according to a report released by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) on Tuesday.

According to the WMO's report, a weather-related disaster occurred every day on average between 1970 and 2019, killing 2 million people and costing $3.64 trillion.

"The number of disasters has increased by a factor of five over the 50-year period, driven by climate change, more extreme weather and improved reporting. But, thanks to improved early warnings and disaster management, the number of deaths decreased almost three-fold," the WMO said in a press release.


In the 50 years that the WMO observed, the hazards that resulted in the most human loss were droughts, storms, floods and extreme temperatures.

Storms and floods were responsible for the most economic loss. Three of the top 10 costliest storms  hurricanes Harvey, Maria and Irma  occurred in 2017. These three storms accounted for 35 percent of the total economic loss caused by the top 10 disasters observed from 1970 to 2019.

More than 91 percent of reported deaths occurred in developing countries.

“The number of weather, climate and water extremes are increasing and will become more frequent and severe in many parts of the world as a result of climate change,” WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas said.

“That means more heatwaves, drought and forest fires such as those we have observed recently in Europe and North America," said Taalas. "We have more water vapor in the atmosphere, which is exacerbating extreme rainfall and deadly flooding. The warming of the oceans has affected the frequency and area of existence of the most intense tropical storms."

The WMO's report recommended taking into consideration that tropical storms may have different intensities and speeds than they did in the past, strengthening disaster risk financing for developing countries and developing proactive policies for slow-moving disasters like drought.

This report comes just days after Hurricane Ida devastated the Gulf Coast region of the U.S., leaving numerous communities without power for several days. Ida's death toll was raised to six on Tuesday, according to NBC News.