The World of International Organizations

Report cites climate-linked rise in disasters

Australia's Gospers Mountain 'megafire' in Australia, extinguished last February, seen from a turboprop plane (AN/Rick Lang)
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Storms, floods, droughts, wildfires and other disasters attributed to weather may force nearly 162 million people to seek humanitarian aid by 2030, almost 50 percent more than in 2018, a report by 16 international organizations said on Tuesday.

The 2020 State of Climate Services report estimated the global costs of an almost 50 percent increase from the 108 million people who needed humanitarian aid due to weather-related disasters two years ago would come to about US$20 billion a year.

The report, coordinated by the United Nations’ World Meteorological Organization, warned human-impacted climate change is behind the rise in disasters from weather each year. Its release coincided with the U.N.’s International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction.

More than 11,000 disasters have been tied to weather, climate and water-related hazards in the past 50 years that have caused 2 million deaths and US$3.6 trillion in economic costs, according to the 25-page report.

“While the average number of deaths recorded for each disaster has fallen by a third during this period, the number of recorded disasters has increased five times and the economic losses have increased by a factor of seven,” WMO said in a statement.

The report involved 15 other organizations, think tanks and financial institutions: Adaptation Fund, Climate Policy Initiative, CREWS, French Development Agency, FAO, Group on Earth Observations, Green Climate Fund, Global Environment Facility, IFRC, Risk-informed Early Action Partnership, UNISDR, UNDP, World Bank, WFP and WHO.

Focus on what the weather will ‘do’

The report urges governments to invest more money in early-warning systems for natural disasters even at a time when the coronavirus pandemic is upending the world economy.

“While COVID-19 generated a large international health and economic crisis from which it will take years to recover, it is crucial to remember that climate change will continue to pose an ongoing and increasing threat to human lives, ecosystems, economies and societies for centuries to come,“ said WMO’s secretary-general, Petteri Taalas.

“Recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic,” he said, “is an opportunity to move forward along a more sustainable path towards resilience and adaptation in the light of anthropogenic climate change.”

Key to that investment, according to the report, would be a switch to impact-based forecasting that focuses more on what the weather may do rather than just what it might be like. Included in the report are 16 case studies for successful early warning systems.

“This report provides a timely warning of the need for climate services to protect the most vulnerable from devastating climate events,” said Yannick Glemarec, executive director of the Green Climate Fund.

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