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UN reports $4.3 trillion in damages and 2 million deaths caused by severe weather in 50 years


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More than 2 million people have died in more than 12,000 extreme weather, climate and water-related events over the past 50 years, the United Nations meteorological agency said Monday.

Extreme weather events also caused economic damage exceeding $4.3 trillion.

The stark conclusion came from the World Meteorological Organization as it opened its four-year conference among member states, pressing the message that more must be done to improve alert systems for extreme weather events by a target date of 2027.

The Geneva-based agency has repeatedly warned of the impact of man-made climate change, saying rising temperatures have increased the frequency and intensity of extreme weather – including floods, hurricanes and droughts.

The World Meteorological Organization says early warning systems have helped reduce climate-related deaths and other weather-related disasters.

Most of the economic damage between 1970 and 2021 occurred in the United States – totaling $1.7 trillion – while nine out of 10 deaths worldwide occurred in developing countries.

WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas said Cyclone Mocha that has swept Myanmar and Bangladesh this month demonstrates how “the most vulnerable communities, unfortunately, are bearing the brunt of weather, climate and water-related hazards”.

“In the past, both Myanmar and Bangladesh have suffered loss of life amounting to tens or even hundreds of thousands of people,” he said, referring to previous disasters. “Thanks to early warnings and disaster management, these catastrophic death rates are thankfully a thing of the past.”

“Early warnings save lives,” he said.

The findings were part of an update to the WMO Atlas of Deaths and Economic Losses from Extreme Weather, Climate and Hydrological Events, which previously covered a period of nearly 50 years to 2019.

Extreme temperatures were the leading cause of reported deaths; Floods were the main cause of economic losses.

In Africa, the World Meteorological Organization has counted more than 1,800 disasters and 733,585 deaths related to weather, climate and water extremes – including floods and storm surges. The costliest of 2019 was Tropical Cyclone Idai, which reached $2.1 billion in damages.

Nearly 1,500 disasters struck the Pacific Southwest, causing 66,951 deaths and $185.8 billion in economic losses.

Asia has faced more than 3,600 disasters, claiming 984,263 lives and $1.4 trillion in economic losses – costs mostly due to the impact of typhoons. South America saw 943 disasters, causing 58,484 deaths and more than $115 billion in economic losses.

More than 2,100 disasters in North America, Central America, and the Caribbean have resulted in 77,454 deaths and $2 trillion in economic losses.

Europe has seen nearly 1,800 disasters, resulting in 166,492 deaths and economic losses of $562 billion.

The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) predicted last week that there is a 66% chance that within the next five years, Earth will experience a year that is 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) warmer on average than the mid-19th century, reaching the threshold. The main target of the climate of Paris. 2015 agreement.

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