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Losses from extreme weather quadruples in 30 years as climate warms

As the global climate continues to change, the damages from extreme weather related to warming planet are growing and the developing nations have to bear the brunt of mounting losses in lives, a World Bank report has revealed.

world Updated: Nov 19, 2013 10:56 IST
Nivedita Khandekar

2.5 million people have died in last 30 years due to natural disasters and global economic losses caused by extreme weather events have risen to just under $200 billion a year over the last decade, a report by the World Bank showed on Monday.

As the global climate continues to change, the costs and damages from extreme weather related to warming planet are growing and while all countries are facing the impact, it is the developing nations bearing the brunt of mounting losses in lives and livelihoods from increasing floods, droughts and storms, the statistics has shown.

India’s cyclone preparedness during Phailin is showcased in the report as an example for ‘proven benefits of early warning and preparedness against disasters.’

“Over the last 30 years, the world has lost more than 2.5 million people and almost $4 trillion to natural disasters. Economic losses are rising from $50 billion each year in the 1980s to just under $200 billion annually in the last decade,” said Rachel Kyte, World Bank vice-president for Sustainable Development.

Observing that about three quarters of these losses are a result of extreme weather incidences, Kyte emphasised: “While you cannot connect any single weather event to climate change, scientists have warned that extreme weather events will increase in intensity if climate change is left unchecked.”

The report ‘Building Resilience: Integrating Climate and Disaster Risk into Development’ pointed out that disaster-related losses amounted to $3,800 billion worldwide from 1980 to 2012. Some 87% of these reported disasters (18,200 events) were caused by extreme weather condition. As much as 74% losses ($2,800 billion) and 61% of deaths (1.4 million in total) were also attributed to climate extremes.

Surely, more can be done to help vulnerable countries adapt to climate change and prepare for and respond to weather-related disasters, said the report released on the sidelines of the United Nations climate talks here.

On how climate and disaster-resilient development can save lives and livelihoods and also protect the poor from climate shocks, the 58-page comprehensive report claimed that the early warning systems have proven to save countless lives worldwide, and typically yield benefits that are 4-36 times higher than initial cost outlay.

“Cyclone Phailin which hit Odisha and Andhra Pradesh in 2013 in India resulted in 40 deaths after years of disaster risk prevention and preparedness, compared to the 10,000 who perished during a similar event in 1999,” the report said.

World Bank was clearly putting disaster risk management at the forefront of its agenda. “The Bank portfolio in this area is rapidly growing with 2 out of every 3 dollars we invest focused on prevention and preparedness rather than just response,” said Kyte.