Globally over the past 50 years, some 11,000 disasters, attributed to weather, climate and water-related hazards, claimed over 2 million lives and cost the world economy $3.6 trillion
New Delhi: Extreme weather and climate events have increased in frequency, intensity and severity as a result of climate change, hitting vulnerable communities disproportionately hard, revealed a new United Nations (UN) report.
The report titled--State of Climate Services 2020 Report: Move from Early Warnings to Early Action, released by the UN World Meteorological Organization (WMO) on Tuesday called for greater investment in effective early warning systems.
Globally over the past 50 years, some 11,000 disasters, attributed to weather, climate and water-related hazards, claimed over 2 million lives and cost the world economy $3.6 trillion, the report said. In 2018 alone, storms, floods, droughts and wildfires left some 108 million people in need of international humanitarian assistance. By 2030, this number could increase by almost 50% at a cost of around $20 billion a year, it added.
The report also highlighted that between 1970 and 2019, 79% of disasters worldwide involved weather, water, and climate-related hazards. These disasters accounted for 56% of deaths and 75% of economic losses from disasters associated with natural hazards events reported during that period. Over the last 10 years (2010-2019), the percentage of disasters associated with weather, climate and water related events increased by 9% compared to the previous decade – and by almost 14% with respect to the decade 1991-2000.
The situation is particularly acute in Small Island Developing States (SIDS) and Least Developed Countries (LDCs). Since 1970, SIDS have lost US$ 153 billion due to weather, climate- and water-related hazards – a significant amount given that the average gross domestic product (GDP) for SIDS is US$ 13.7 billion.4 Meanwhile, 1.4 million people (70% of the total deaths) in LDCs lost their lives due to weather, climate and water related hazards
The report also mentioned about the locust attack in India. “After Cyclone Pawan made landfall in early December 2019, flooding in the Horn of Africa created highly favourable breeding conditions for the desert locust. The region is facing the worst desert locust crisis in over 25 years, and the most serious in 70 years for Kenya. Desert locust swarms are also moving across India, Pakistan and the Islamic Republic of Iran," the report said.
In spite of the alarming figures, one in three people are still not adequately covered by early warning systems, with communities in Africa, least developed countries and small island developing States most affected, the UN agency added, citing challenges such as weak dissemination of early warning, inadequate observing networks, and insufficient capacity to translate early warning into early action.
The report underscored the need to switch to impact-based forecasting – an evolution from “what the weather will be" to “what the weather will do" so that people and businesses can act early, based on the warnings.
Petteri Taalas, Secretary-General of WMO in a foreword to the report highlighted that while it could take years to recover from the human and economic toll of the covid-19 pandemic, it is crucial to remember that climate change will continue to pose an on-going and increasing threat to human lives, ecosystems, economies and societies for centuries to come.
The report has outlined six key recommendations to improve the implementation and effectiveness of early warning systems, globally. It has called for investing to fill the early warning systems capacity gaps, particularly in African least developed countries and small island developing States. It further said that the focus should be on the investment on turning early warning information into early action and ensuring sustainable financing of the global observing system that underpins early warnings.
The report recommended tracking finance flows to improve understanding of where these resources are being allocated in relation to early warning systems implementation needs and what impact this is having. It also said that the countries should be developing more consistency in monitoring and evaluation to better determine early warning systems effectiveness and filling data gaps, particularly in small island developing States.