Extreme weather events kill 2 million, cost $4.3 trillion in damages
As part of an update to its Atlas of Mortality and Economic Losses from Weather, Climate and Water Extremes, the World Meteorological Organisation tallied 12,000 disasters over the past 50 years that have killed over 2 million worldwide and caused economic damage of $4.3 trillion.
Even as improvements in alert systems have helped reduce human losses, the economic damage from such weather events continues to rise, the UN weather agency said Monday. The stark reveal came as WMO opened its four-yearly congress among member countries.
The Geneva-based agency pressed the message that more needs to be done to improve the early warning systems by 2027. It has repeatedly warned about the impact of climate change, stressing rising temperatures have increased the frequency and intensity of extreme weather.
Nevertheless, WMO has acknowledged some limitations to its report.
- While the number of disasters has increased worldwide, some of that could be due to improvements in reporting.
- While the updated report accounts for inflation, estimating the exact economic impact of a disaster can be an inexact science.
Between 1970 and 2021, extreme weather events caused the maximum economic damage in the US – amounting to nearly $1.7 trillion. Developing countries suffered the greatest death tolls – around nine in 10 deaths worldwide.
Relative to GDP, the economic impact was felt more in developing countries, WMO says.
A majority of reported human and economic losses worldwide had to blame tropical cyclones.
Africa saw over 1,800 disasters and 733,585 deaths in the period, with the most costliest being the 2019 Cyclone Idai, which ran to $2.1 billion in damages.
Meanwhile, the southwest Pacific saw nearly 1,500 disasters, with an enormous human toll of 66,951 deaths and economic losses amounting to $185.8 billion.
North America, Central America, and the Caribbean saw over 2,100 disasters, that killed 77,454 people and caused $2 trillion in economic damages. South America faced 943 events that led to 58,484 deaths and over $115 billion in damages.
Europe recorded 166,492 deaths and $562 billion in economic loss from nearly 1800 disasters.
People in Asia saw more than 3,600 extreme events in the period, costing 984,263 lives and $1.4 trillion in economic losses.