According to a recent United Nations report, weather-related disasters killed more than 600,000 people and left over 4 billion homeless worldwide in the last two decades. The report also shows that extreme weather may have triggered 90 percent of all natural disasters on the planet.
The report, which was released Monday, shows that extreme temperatures, floods, hurricanes, droughts and other extreme-weather events affected thousands of communities prompting for international aid and rescue.
UN investigators estimate for the last decade there were 335 annual weather-related disasters, which represents a 14 percent hike from an earlier decade and almost double the number of such events recorded in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
Nevertheless, researchers acknowledged that they weren’t able to calculate how many of those events were directly associated with climate change. But they expect the upward trend to continue for the next decade, as well.
Though the report is not focused on climate change, the UN found that atmospheric greenhouse gas levels rose to record breaking levels in the last three decades.
UN investigators explained that a natural disaster needs to meet at least one of four criteria to be deemed so: (1) it must result in at least 10 casualties, (2) over 100 people need to be affected, (3) the event needs to be serious enough for authorities to declare a state of emergency or (4) call for international disaster relief.
Nearly half of these disastrous events were caused by flooding, UN report shows. Floods were tied to 157,000 deaths and nearly 3 billion people affected in the last two decades. About 95 percent of people affected by floods are located in Asia.
Researchers explained that Asia is more exposed to flooding because of its complex hydrological system and its vast and varied territory.
Debarati Guha-Sapir, a co-author of the UN report and a disaster management expert at the UCL University in Louvain’s Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters in Belgium, declined to link floods worldwide to global warming.
“Whether it’s increasing due to global warming, I think it’s safe to say the jury’s out on that,”
He noted that floods do increase worldwide and we should stop focusing on ‘ifs and whys’ and start taking action to manage floods and extreme weather events in our communities.
The UN report was released a week before the climate meeting in Paris, which is expected to bring long-term solutions to an ever warming planet.
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