Apart from the ongoing unmitigated disaster that is the covid-19 pandemic, India has had its share of other disasters this year, mainly in the form of extreme weather: heatwaves, a locust invasion, severe monsoon floods, and two cyclones—one of which was a supercyclone. Nor have other countries fared any better, with wildfires in the US, Brazil and the Arctic Circle being the most dramatic examples.
It was quite fitting, then, that on October 13, the International Day of Disaster Risk Reduction, the UN released an eye-opener of a report. The Human Cost Of Disasters: An Overview Of The Last 20 Years (2000-2019) prepared by the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR) shows just how much more frequent, and destructive, global disasters have become, as compared to the twenty years before 2000. More alarmingly, the majority of these have come in the form of floods and storms: disaster events that bear the signature of global heating.
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According to the report, between 2000 and 2019, there were 7,348 major disaster events, which claimed 1.23 million lives, affected 4.2 billion people and cost an estimated $2.97 trillion in losses. This is higher than the previous period (1980-1999), which saw 4,212 disasters, 1.19 million lives lost, 3.25 billion people affected and about $1.63 trillion in losses. Alarming as this is, what’s worse is that the number of climate-related disasters increased from 3,656 (1980-1999) to 6,681 (2000-2019). For example, in the past twenty years, the major flooding events have doubled to 3,254, while the number of disastrous storms increased from 1,457 to 2,034.
India features prominently in the report, as the country with the third highest number of disaster events (321) in the past 20 years. Only China with 577 and the US with 467 events have suffered more. The report says that due to technological advancement and better preparedness, the fatalities have been under control, but it also issues a warning. In the joint foreword to the report, UNDRR chief Mami Mizutori and Debarati Guha-Sapir of the Belgium-based Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED) write, “It is baffling that we willingly and knowingly continue to sow the seeds of our own destruction, despite the science and evidence that we are turning our only home into an uninhabitable hell for millions of people.” The report comes down heavily on the culpability of richer industrialized nations because of their failure to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to required levels.
Mizutori also said that the covid-19 pandemic is instructive in that it is “the latest proof that political and business leaders are yet to tune in to the rest of the world.” In a bleak year like 2020, such strong words are welcome. “It really is all about governance,” she said, and we couldn't agree more.
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FIRST PUBLISHED15.10.2020 | 10:30 AM IST