Weather, climate disasters surge fivefold in 50 years: UN

Geneva: Weather-related disasters have skyrocketed over the past half-century, causing far more damage even as better warning systems have meant fewer deaths, the UN said Wednesday.

A report from the UN’s World Meteorological Organization (WMO) examined mortality and economic losses from weather, climate and water extremes between 1970 and 2019.

It found that such disasters have increased fivefold during that period, driven largely by a warming planet, and warned the upward trend would continue.

“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,” said WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas.

In total, there were more than 11,000 disasters attributed to these hazards globally since 1970, causing more than two million deaths and some $3.64 trillion in losses.

Hurricane Ida, which slammed into the US Gulf Coast at the weekend and killed at least four people, could become the costliest weather disaster on record, Taalas told reporters.

“There is a chance that the economic cost will be higher then Katrina,” he said, while adding that improved prevention and protection measures had ensured that Ida caused only a fraction of the casualties of the giant storm that devastated the same area exactly 16 years earlier.

Until now, Katrina, which killed more than 1,800 people and destroyed large parts of New Orleans, had been considered by far the costliest weather-related disaster, racking up nearly $164 billion in economic losses. – AFP