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Climate change causes 2m deaths in 50 years: UN

Bangladesh had highest deaths in Asia with 520,758, attributed to 281 disasters
Staff Correspondent
22 May 2023 20:04:12 | Update: 22 May 2023 20:08:36
Climate change causes 2m deaths in 50 years: UN
People make their way on a boat while others wade along a flooded street during a monsoon rainfall in Sylhet on June 18, 2022 — AFP Photo

Extreme weather, climate and water-related events have caused 11,778 reported disasters in the last half century, killing two million people and causing trillions of dollars of economic damage, the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) has said.

More than 90 per cent of the reported deaths happened in developing countries and economic damage from floods, storms and wildfires has soared by a factor of eight since 1970, totalling 4.3 trillion US dollars (£3.5 trillion).

Bangladesh had the highest death toll in Asia with 520,758, attributed to 281 disasters, according to the report.

In Europe, 166,492 people were killed in 1,784 disasters, accounting for 8 per cent of reported deaths worldwide.

The number of deaths has fallen dramatically since then which the WMO said was because of improved early warning systems and disaster management.

The United States alone lost 1.7 trillion dollars (£1.4 trillion), which accounts for 39 per cent of the economic losses sustained between 1970 and 2021 – the years analysed in the WMO’s updated Atlas of Mortality and Economic Losses from Weather, Climate and Water Extremes.

However, it is least developed countries and small island developing states who have suffered a disproportionately high cost in relation to the size of their economies, the WMO said.

Data from 2020 and 2021 has been added to the Atlas which already covers the period up to 2019.

It shows 22,608 deaths from the most recent two years – a continuation of the declining trend – while economic losses increased further with the majority attributed to storms.

Professor Petteri Taalas, the WMO’s secretary-general, said: “The most vulnerable communities unfortunately bear the brunt of weather, climate and water-related hazards.

“Extremely severe cyclonic storm Mocha exemplifies this. It caused widespread devastation in Myanmar and Bangladesh, impacting the poorest of the poor.

“In the past, both Myanmar and Bangladesh suffered death tolls of tens and even hundreds of thousands of people.

“Thanks to early warnings and disaster management these catastrophic mortality rates are now thankfully history. Early warnings save lives.”

Asia accounted for 47 per cent of all reported deaths worldwide – nearly one million – with tropical cyclones being the leading cause.

Extreme temperatures were the leading cause of reported deaths and floods were the leading cause of economic losses.

The WMO wants to ensure that early warning systems reach everyone on Earth by 2027 and has published its findings ahead of the World Meteorological Congress on May 22 to help speed up this process.

The report found that more than 90 per cent of deaths reported worldwide due to these disasters took place in developing countries.

“The most vulnerable communities unfortunately bear the brunt of weather, climate and water-related hazards,” WMO chief Petteri Taalas said in a statement.

Cyclone Mocha, which wreaked havoc in Myanmar and Bangladesh last week, exemplified this reality, Taalas said.

The severe storm “caused widespread devastation… impacting the poorest of the poor,” he said.