WMO report highlights urgent need for action as climate related death toll reaches close to 2 million

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18 July 2014

LONDON: Since 1970, climate change related disasters have cost the global economy US$2.4 trillion and taken 1.94 million lives, a new report from the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and the Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED) of the Catholic University of Louvain, has revealed.

A key reference document for the development of post 2015 disaster reduction and sustainable development goals, The Atlas of Mortality and Economic Losses from Weather, Climate and Water Extremes 1970-2012, provides compelling evidence in favor of a global clean revolution.

Between premature deaths, disasters and economic losses, no continent was untouched by the ravages of climate and weather changes. Close to two million deaths resulted from the increase in droughts, floods, tropical cyclones and other weather related disasters recorded during the period studied.

However, many cities worldwide are now recognizing the advantages of mainstreaming climate policy - both from an economic and health perspective - and climate adaptation plans are now key policy documents for 102 cities. In addition, the recent 2014 Carbon Disclosure Report noted 757 adaptation activities have been introduced worldwide.

“Improved early warning systems and disaster management are helping to prevent loss of life. But the socio-economic impact of disasters is escalating because of their increasing frequency and severity and the growing vulnerability of human societies.”  WMO Secretary-General Michel Jarraud elucidated.

Of the 8,835 disasters WMO recorded, 79% were storms and floods which caused 55% of the total lives lost, and were responsible for 86% of economic losses. Hurricane Katrina resulted in a staggering US$146.89 billion in damage costs.

While financial losses are highest in developed countries such as the US, the loss of life recorded in the least developed and developing countries is greatest, highlighting once again the severe and disproportionate effect of global warming.

Furthermore, the analysts state that human actions are worsening the naturally changing climate, meaning that past records can no longer accurately predict the scale of future risks. In fact, a previous WMO report, found that the first decade of the 21st century was the hottest since records began.

Responding to the new data, Mark Kenber, CEO of The Climate Group said: “Climate change is not an abstract issue, it is a very real phenomenon which is having a significant and detrimental impact on the quality of life of people around the world. From East African droughts to South American floods, the reality of the global rise in temperatures is food scarcity, malnutrition and needless loss of life.

"The findings of this WMO report emphasize the need for political leaders to deliver an ambitious and effective climate package at the Paris 2015 UN Summit that leads to rapid emissions reductions and real investment in climate resilience. When the health and wellbeing of their citizens is at stake, nothing less than total commitment is acceptable.”

With the influential coalition of health professionals the Global Climate and Health Alliance (GCHA) recently describing global warming as the “biggest threat to public health”, the relationship between climate change and human wellbeing has never been as topical.

This September, in a special Climate Conversation during Climate Week NYC, The Climate Group will be outlining what the low carbon economy will deliver for citizen health.

Please visit ClimateWeekNYC.org for further details on the important event.

Related News: 

Leaders agree climate science ‘is beyond argument’

As climate scientists gather in Japan, UN reports 2013 was sixth warmest year on record

Damian Ryan: COP19 keeps us on track for a climate deal in Paris, if countries use 2014 wisely

By Alana Ryan


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