It’s a simple fact that as we continue to pump record levels of greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere we are ramping up disaster risk around the globe now and for generations to come.
It goes with the sobering reality of warming and rising seas and widespread changes in the Earth’s systems that are influencing storms, winds and rainfall.
The toll this takes on human life, economies and government expenditures will be high on the agenda when world leaders gather in Mexico for the Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction in late May.
Latest figures show that disasters – 90% of which are classed as climate related – now cost the world economy US$520 billion per year and push 26 million people into poverty every year.
In the 22 years that have passed since COP1, the first UN conference on climate change, we have seen greenhouse gas emissions reach critically high levels which bodes ill for those who already live in dry lands, on cyclone-exposed coastlines, flood plains, below unstable hillsides or in parts of the world dependent on glacier meltwater.
Over that time span we have also seen a doubling of weather and climate related disasters, which can further weaken least developed countries like Haiti which lost over 600 lives and around a third of its GDP when it was struck by Hurricane Matthew last October.
By some recent estimates the bill for Haiti’s recovery from that Category 4 hurricane comes to US$2.8 billion, an extraordinary sum for a country where 60% of the population live in dire poverty.
The Philippines lost thousands of its citizens partly due to the slow passage of Typhoon Haiyan across the warming, rising waters of the Pacific Ocean in 2013. And again, the economic losses and the cost of building back better ran into billions.
Meanwhile the drylands of the Sahel and southern Africa already at high risk from rising temperatures, breached the limits of their capacity to sustain human life adequately in the last twelve months as country after country declared a state of national emergency and millions suffered the devastation of hunger and the loss of their livelihoods.
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