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The World Is Paying a High Price for More Frequent Extreme Weather Events

Weather-related disasters are hitting nearly every day and are occurring twice as often as two decades ago, according to the United Nations and the Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters.
Imagen por Adrees Latif/Reuters

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Weather-related disasters have occurred nearly every day over the past decade — twice as often as the same events were recorded just two decades ago.

Those are the results of a joint study by the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) and the Belgian-based Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED). The groups found that since 1995, when the first UN climate change conference took place, weather-related disasters such as floods, storms, and heat waves have killed a total of 606,000 people and left another 4.1 billion injured, homeless, or in need of aid.


"Weather and climate are major drivers of disaster risk and this report demonstrates that the world is paying a high price in lives lost," Margareta Wahlström, head of UNISDR, said in a statement following the report's release.

The report – The Human Cost of Weather Related Disasters ­– says Asia accounted for the lion's share of disaster impacts, while the five countries with the highest number of recorded disasters were listed as the United States, China, India, Philippines, and Indonesia.

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The data gathered found that there were an average of 335 weather-related disasters annually between 2005 and August of this year. That is up 14 percent from the period spanning 1995 to 2004 and twice that recorded between 1985 and 1994.

Recently, 2002 marked a particularly devastating year, as a drought in India impacted 200 million people and a sandstorm in China affected another 100 million. In 2008, Cyclone Nargis claimed 138,000 lives in Myanmar.

Weather-related disasters account for 90 percent of all disasters, according to the report, although less-frequently occurring events such as earthquakes, tsunamis, and volcanoes often garner more media attention.

The two-decade review of disasters found that floods accounted for 47 percent of all weather-related disasters from 1995 to 2015, affecting 2.3 billion people and killing 157,000. Storms were noted as the most deadly disaster, accounting for 242,000 deaths ­— 40 percent of all weather-related deaths.


While causalities related to storms were concentrated in lower-income countries, heat wave-related deaths — accounting for an additional 148,000 — were concentrated in higher income, European countries.

The authors said their findings could not be entirely attributed to climate change, but said there would "almost certainly" be a continued upward trend in weather-related disasters due to global warming.

Related: Climate Change Could Push 100 Million People Into Poverty by 2030

The release of the report comes just a week before world leaders will gather in Paris to discuss global plans to curb greenhouse gas emissions.

"In the long term, an agreement in Paris … on reducing greenhouse gas emissions will be a significant contribution to reducing damage and loss from disasters which are partly driven by a warming globe and rising sea levels," the head of UNISDR, Margareta Wahlström, said in a statement.

The authors estimate that the cost of natural disaster losses — including earthquakes and tsunamis — is between $250 billion and $300 billion annually.

Debarati Guha-Sapir, head of CRED, added that ongoing weather-related disasters could hinder global efforts to reach wider-reaching goals to reduce poverty.

"Climate change, climate variability, and weather events are a threat to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals' overall target of eliminating poverty," Guha-Sapir said in a statement. "This all requires ensuring people are risk informed and strengthening institutions which manage disaster risk."

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