18 July 2014


UN Photo/Evan Schneider

Weather, climate and water-related disasters are on the rise worldwide, causing loss of life and setting back economic and social development by years, if not decades. From 1970 to 2012, 8,835 disasters, 1.94 million deaths, and US$ 2.4 trillion of economic losses were reported globally as a result of hazards such as droughts, extreme temperatures, floods, tropical cyclones and related health epidemics, according to a new report.

The Atlas of Mortality and Economic Losses from Weather, Climate and Water Extremes 1970-2012 describes the distribution and impacts of weather, climate, and water-related disasters and highlights measures to increase resilience. It is a joint publication of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and the Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED) of the Catholic University of Louvain (UCL) in Belgium.

The report was published ahead of the First Session of the Preparatory Committee Meeting in Geneva for the Third United Nations World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction. It seeks to inform debate on the post-2015 framework both for disaster risk reduction and sustainable development.

“Disasters caused by weather, climate, and water-related hazards are on the rise worldwide. Both industrialised and non-industrialised countries are bearing the burden of repeated floods, droughts, temperature extremes and storms,” said WMO Secretary-General Michel Jarraud.

Earlier this year when commenting on the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report  he stated that “Over the coming decades, climate change will have mostly negative impacts on cities and infrastructure, migration and security, ecosystems and species, crops and food security, public health, water supplies, and much more. We will see more ocean acidification and extreme droughts, floods and heatwaves. The poor and vulnerable will be most affected.”

The science is clear, as are the likely consequences of failure to act, yet the underlying truth is that most countries are reluctant to sacrifice their economic growth for the sake of fighting climate change. Sadly the world seems bereft of leaders with vision who are capable of taking unpopular short-term decisions for the long-term good of all.

In a decision described as an “historic act of irresponsibility and recklessness” the Australian governments’s recent repeal of the carbon tax has left it without a clear strategy to reduce national greenhouse gas emissions, and places it at odds with an accelerating trend in rest of the world. According to the EU climate commissioner Connie Hedegaard “The EU is convinced that pricing carbon is not only the most cost-effective way to reduce emissions, but also THE tool to make the economic paradigm shift the world needs.  This is why the EU will continue to work towards global carbon pricing with all international partners”

Visit the Get-up website to demand greater action on climate change.

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