Climate change is putting people in harm’s way. A report titled ‘Economic Losses, Poverty and Disasters 1998-2017’ compiled by the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) says, climate change is costing low income countries greater burden of disasters than developed nations. India is one of them which suffered a loss of USD 79.5 billion in last 20 years.
Among the top 10 countries that reported economic losses due to disasters, India ranks fourth. The US recorded biggest losses, USD 945 billion. China, by comparison, suffered a significantly higher number of disasters than the US (577 against 482), but lower total losses (USD 492 billion).
In 1998-2017, disaster-hit countries experienced direct economic losses valued at USD 2,908 billion. Of which climate-related disasters caused USD 2,245 billion or 77% of the total.
This is up from 68% (USD 895 billion) of losses (USD 1,313 billion) reported between 1978 and 1997. Overall, reported losses from extreme weather events rose by 151% between these two 20-year periods, the report said.
The report titled ‘Economic Losses, Poverty and Disasters has evaluated total disaster-related economic losses and fatalities between 1998 and 2017. According to this report, between 1998 and 2017 climate-related and geophysical disasters killed 1.3 million people and left a further 4.4 billion injured, homeless, displaced or in need of emergency assistance.
While the majority of fatalities were due to geophysical events, mostly earthquakes and tsunamis, 91% of all disasters were caused by floods, storms, droughts, heatwaves and other extreme weather events.
In terms of economic losses, it is the low-income countries that are paying a heavy price. Low income countries suffered a loss of USD 21 billion due to climate-related disasters. This amounted to an average of 1.8% of the GDP. This is also above the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) threshold for a major economic disaster of 0.5%.
On the other hand, high income countries reported USD 1,432 billion in climate-related disaster losses, or 65% of the global total. However, this represents only 0.41% of their GDP.
Low and lower-middle income countries also carried a disproportionate burden in terms of disaster deaths. They experienced 43% of all major recorded disasters in the past 20 years but the greatest proportion (68%) of fatalities.
Historically, the large, populous continent of Asia has borne the brunt of global disasters of all types; this remained true in the past 20 years. For geophysical disasters, Asia accounts for the majority of all recorded impacts. This includes an extraordinary 85% of all affected people, and 78% of reported economic damage, as well as 62% of all occurrences and 69% of deaths. For climate-related disasters, affected populations once again overwhelmingly lived in flood- and storm-prone Asia (86%).
Integrating disaster risk reduction into investment decisions is the most cost-effective way to reduce these risks; investing in disaster risk reduction is therefore a precondition for developing sustainably in a changing climate, the report suggested.