Extreme weather claims 2 million lives, causes $4.3 trillion in damages: UN agency

Nearly 12,000 extreme weather, climate and water-related events over much of the past half-century around the globe have killed more than 2 million people and caused economic damage of $4.3 trillion, the U.N. weather agency said Monday.The stark recap from the World Meteorological Organization 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.
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 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.
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.”
The findings were a part of an update to WMO’s Atlas of Mortality and Economic Losses from Weather, Climate and Water Extremes, which previously had covered a nearly 50-year period through 2019.Extreme temperatures were the top cause of reported deaths; floods were the main cause of economic losses. WMO forecasts a 66% chance of Earth reaching 1.5 degrees Celsius warmer than the mid-19th century within the next five years, a key threshold of the Paris climate accord.

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