Environment

Weather Puts More At Risk Than Ever Before

Samuel David, flickr
Written by Ethan M. Long

“The Human Cost of Weather Related Disasters,” a report released this week by the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction and the Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters, looks at natural disaster trends with what they call a “sobering and revealing analysis.”

According to the foreword of the report, “climate change, climate variability and weather events pose a threat to the eradication of extreme poverty and should serve as a spur to hasten efforts not only to reduce greenhouse gas emissions but also to tackle other underlying risk drivers such as unplanned urban development, vulnerable livelihoods, environmental degradation and gaps in early warnings.”

The results of the study are staggering, revealing “an average of 335 weather-related disasters per year between 2005 and 2014.”

This is almost daily.

The disasters we’ve seen in the past ten years or so amount to double what was seen from 1985 – 1994.

“While scientists cannot calculate what percentage of this rise is due to climate change, predictions of more extreme weather in future almost certainly mean that we will witness a continued upward trend in weather-related disasters in the decades ahead,” the report states.

Of the weather-related disasters in the past 21 years, 47 percent has been attributed to flooding while 40 percent has been attributed to storms. While flooding affected 2.3 billion people (95 percent of which live in Asia,) storms have caused the deaths of 242,000 people.

“The vast majority of these deaths (89%) occurred in lower-income countries, even though they experienced just 26% of all storms,” according to the report.

In all, 606,000 lives have been taken by weather-related disasters in the past 20 years. It is stated that Asia “bore the brunt of weather-related disasters,” due to its landmasses, which carry dense populations, being in high risk zones.

The report lists several “major conclusions,” such as the common-sense fact that “Better management, mitigation and deployment of early warnings could save more lives in the future.” Writing about the danger posed to poor countries, the report states that “Better flood control for poorer communities at high risk of recurrent flooding would be another step forward. Effective low-cost solutions exist, including afforestation, reforestation, floodplain zoning, embankments, better warnings and restoration of wetlands.”

The report calls for greater comprehensive policies when dealing with the effect of predicting weather-related disasters. “There is a requirement for strengthening disaster risk governance to manage disaster risk with clear vision, competence, plans, guidelines and coordination across sectors,” it states. It also calls on private-public partnerships to maximize the financial effort of building better defenses against disaster: “Public and private investment in disaster risk prevention and reduction through structural and non-structural measures needs to be stepped up to create disaster-resilient societies.”

Storms in recent memory have been nastier than ever before — from the flooding seen in South Carolina to the North East Winter — and that’s only the United States. Not to mention that seven of the 10 deadliest heat waves on record have taken place in the last 20 years. While there might not be enough data linking climate change to these amped-up storms, it is clear that we’re living in their era.

The 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference convenes in Paris today, where the leaders of the world will undoubtedly converse and identify places where they can strengthen efforts to reduce carbon emissions and help generations to come have a planet to live on.

 

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Source: UNISDR

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About the author

Ethan M. Long

Ethan Long is a journalist based out of Boston, MA.

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Weather Puts More At Risk Than Ever Before

by Ethan M. Long
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