The economic damage of weather- and climate-related disasters continues to rise, even as improvements in early warning have helped reduce the human toll, the U.N. weather agency said Monday.
The World Meteorological Organization, in an updated report, tallied nearly 12,000 extreme weather, climate and water-related events over the past half-century around the globe that have killed more than 2 million people and caused economic damage of $4.3 trillion.
The stark recap from WMO came as it opened its four-yearly congress among member countries, pressing the message that more needs to be done to improve alert systems for extreme weather events by a target date of 2027.
“Economic losses have soared. But improved early warnings and coordinated disaster management has slashed the human casualty toll over the past half a century” WMO said in a statement. The trend of rising economic damage is expected to continue.
The Geneva-based agency has repeatedly warned about the impact of man-made climate change, saying rising temperatures have increased the frequency and intensity of extreme weather — including floods, hurricanes, cyclones, heat waves and drought.
WMO says early warning systems have helped reduce deaths linked to climate and other weather-related catastrophes.
Most of the economic damage between 1970 and 2021 came in the United States — totaling $1.7 trillion — while nine in 10 deaths worldwide took place in developing countries. The economic impact, relative to gross domestic product, has been felt more in developing countries, WMO says.
WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas said the cyclonic storm Mocha that swept across Myanmar and Bangladesh this month exemplified how the “most vulnerable communities unfortunately bear the brunt of weather, climate and water-related hazards.”
“In the past, both Myanmar and Bangladesh suffered death tolls of tens and even hundreds of thousands of people,” he said, alluding to previous catastrophes. “Thanks to early warnings and disaster management these catastrophic mortality rates are now thankfully history.”
“Early warnings save lives,” he said.