Eco­nomic losses due to dis­as­ters soar

Shanghai Daily - - TOP NEWS - (Reuters)

ECO­NOMIC losses caused by cli­mate-re­lated dis­as­ters have soared by about two and a half times in the last 20 years, the United Na­tions said yes­ter­day.

From 1998 to 2017, losses from dis­as­ters to­taled US$2.9 tril­lion, of which 77 per­cent was due to ex­treme weather that is in­ten­si­fy­ing as the world warms, the UN Of­fice for Disas­ter Risk Re­duc­tion (UNISDR) said in a re­port.

That com­pares with over­all losses of US$1.3 tril­lion from 1978 to 1997, 68 per­cent of that ac­counted for by cli­mate and weather haz­ards, in­clud­ing storms, floods and droughts.

“We can see that cli­mate change is play­ing an in­creas­ingly im­por­tant role in driv­ing up disas­ter losses around the world, and that prob­a­bly will be the case in the fu­ture as well,” said Ri­cardo Mena, an of­fi­cial at the UNISDR.

On Mon­day, cli­mate sci­en­tists warned that if global av­er­age tem­per­a­tures rise more than 1.5 de­grees Cel­sius above pre-in­dus­trial times, it would lead to more suf­fer­ing, espe­cially among the world’s poor­est.

The planet has al­ready heated up by about 1 de­gree.

Cli­mate change is in­creas­ing the fre­quency and sever­ity of ex­treme weather, and dis­as­ters will con­tinue to set back sus­tain­able de­vel­op­ment, the re­port said.

Cli­mate-re­lated dis­as­ters ac­counted for about 90 per­cent of the 7,255 ma­jor dis­as­ters between 1998 and 2017, most of them floods and storms, it said.

Losses were great­est in the United States at US$945 bil­lion, fol­lowed by China at US$492 bil­lion and Ja­pan at US$376 bil­lion.

In the past two decades, 1.3 mil­lion peo­ple were killed and 4.4 bil­lion were in­jured, left home­less, dis­placed or re­quired emer­gency help.

More than half the deaths were caused by 563 earthquakes and re­lated tsunamis, said the re­port draw­ing on data from the Cen­ter for Re­search on the Epi­demi­ol­ogy of Dis­as­ters in Bel­gium.

Although rich coun­tries shoul­der the high­est ab­so­lute eco­nomic losses, the re­port noted the dis­pro­por­tion­ate im­pact of dis­as­ters on low and mid­dlein­come coun­tries.

Peo­ple in poorer na­tions are seven times more likely to be killed by a disas­ter than in wealth­ier ones, Mena said.

In de­vel­op­ing coun­tries, eco­nomic losses are not an­a­lyzed for many dis­as­ters, mean­ing the new data was just the “tip of the ice­berg,” he noted.

Puerto Rico was the only high­in­come ter­ri­tory ranked among the top 10 places for an­nual losses as a per­cent­age of eco­nomic growth along­side Haiti, Hon­duras, Cuba, El Sal­vador, Nicaragua, Ge­or­gia, Mon­go­lia, Ta­jik­istan and the Demo­cratic Peo­ple’s Repub­lic of Korea.

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