Extreme weather events have come to dominate the disaster landscape in the 21st century, says a new report by the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR), published to mark 13 October's International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction.
The number of major floods has more than doubled over the last 20 years, from 1,389 to 3,254, while the incidence of storms grew from 1,457 to 2,034. Floods and storms were the most prevalent events.
The report also records major increases in drought, wildfires and extreme temperature events. There has also been a rise in geo-physical events including earthquakes and tsunamis, which have killed more people than any of the other natural hazards reviewed in the report.
The report, "The Human Cost of Disasters 2000-2019", found there were 7,348 major disaster events recording during the period, claiming 1.23 million lives, affecting 4.2 billion people and resulting in approximately US$2.97 trillion in global economic losses.
This marks a sharp increase over the previous twenty years. Between 1980 and 1999, 4,212 disasters were linked to natural hazards worldwide claiming approximately 1.19 million lives and affecting 3.25 billion people resulting in approximately $1.63 Trillion USD in economic losses.
Researchers found that much of this difference is explained by a rise in climate-related disasters, including extreme weather events – from 3,656 climate-related events during the period 1980-1999 to 6,681 climate-related disasters in the period 2000-2019.
“It is baffling that we willingly and knowingly continue to sow the seeds of our own destruction, despite the science and evidence that we are turning our only home into an uninhabitable hell for millions of people,” wrote UNDRR chief Mami Mizutori and Debarati Guha-Sapir from Belgium's Center for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters, in a foreword to the report.
While concentrated impact due to a single disaster type in some countries provides an opportunity for a more focused approach on disaster risk reduction, researchers say that “Covid-19 demonstrates the need for a systemic, multi- hazard approach in an increasingly globalized and interconnected world”.
They also recommend strengthening disaster risk governance to manage disaster risk with clear vision, plans, funding and coordination across sectors and in a way that takes account of the increasingly systemic nature of disaster risk.
“It really is all about governance if we want to deliver this planet from the scourge of poverty, further loss of species and biodiversity, the explosion of urban risk and the worst consequences of global warming,” concluded Mizutori and Guha-Sapir.
Read full report here.human_cost_of_disasters_2000-2019_report_-_un_office_for_disaster_risk_reduction.pdf