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Extreme weather killed 2 million, cost $4.3 trillion in 50 years: WMO

India lost over 130,000 lives; most economic damage seen in US, while 9 in 10 deaths worldwide took place in developing countries

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Associated Press

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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 UN weather agency said on Monday. 
 
The World Meteorological Organization (WMO), 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 over 2 million people and caused economic 
damage of $4.3 trillion.
 
The 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. WMO also said early warning systems have helped reduce deaths linked to climate and other weather related disasters.
 
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 GDP, has been felt more in developing countries, WMO says.
 
In India, 573 disasters reportedly killed 138,377 people between 1970 and 2021. The country recorded 2,227 casualties due to extreme weather events in 2022, according to the India Meteorological Department.
 
WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas said the cyclonic storm Mocha across Myanmar and Bangladesh exemplified how the “most vulnerable communities unfortunately bear the brunt of weather, climate and water-related hazards.”
 
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.
 
While the findings account for inflation, WMO cautioned that the reports could understate the actual damage.
Worldwide, tropical cyclones were the primary cause of disasters. In Africa, WMO counted more than 1,800 disasters and 733,585 deaths. 
 
The costliest was Tropical Cyclone Idai in 2019, which ran to $2.1 billion in damages. Nearly 1,500 disasters hit the southwest Pacific, causing 66,951 deaths and $185.8 billion in economic losses. Asia reported 3,612 disasters with 9,84,263 deaths and $1.4 trillion in losses. Bangladesh had the highest number of deaths (5,20,758) in Asia due to 281 events.
 
South America had 943 disasters that resulted in 58,484 deaths and over $115 billion in economic losses.
 
Over 2,100 disasters in North America, Central America, and the Caribbean led to 77,454 deaths and $2 trillion in losses. 
Europe saw nearly 1,800 disasters that led to 166,492 deaths and $562 billion in economic losses.

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First Published: May 22 2023 | 10:27 PM IST

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