It seems like the news is always filled with stories about storms, heatwaves, drought, and forest fires. This is because these things are happening with unprecedented frequency.
According to a new report from the World Meteorological Organization, weather disasters have become five times more common since 1970, in large part a result of climate change. Extreme weather, climate, and water events are increasing and are becoming more frequent and severe in many parts of the world.
Between 1970 and 2019, there were more than 11,000 reported disasters attributed to weather, resulting in over 2 million deaths and $3.64 trillion dollars in economic losses.
Storms and floods were the most prevalent disasters. The five costliest disasters ever are all hurricanes that have struck the United States over the past 20 years.
Droughts accounted for the greatest number of human losses, with severe droughts in Ethiopia, Mozambique, and Sudan responsible for 650,000 deaths.
About the only positive news in the report was that even as disasters have grown more prevalent, deaths have declined, dropping from about 50,000 a year in the 1970s to fewer than 20,000 in the 2010s. This is a result of better early warning systems. We have gotten better at saving lives. But early warning systems are woefully insufficient in much of the developing world, where more than 90% of disaster-related deaths occur.
Of the 77 weather-related disasters that struck between 2015 and 2017, 62 show the influence of human-caused climate change. With the pace of climate change now accelerating, there are likely to be more frequent catastrophic disasters in the years to come.
As the Planet Has Warmed, Weather Disasters Have Grown Fivefold, Analysis Shows
Photo, posted September 16, 2021, courtesy of Flickr.
Earth Wise is a production of WAMC Northeast Public Radio.