The United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction said that the world will experience an average of 400 disasters per calendar year by 2030 if current trends continue. The report stated that the world experienced only 90 to 100 large-scale disasters per year between 1970 and 2000.
According to the report, there will be three times as many extreme heat waves by 2030 than in 2001. There will also be 30% more droughts. It's not only natural disasters that are being exacerbated by climate change. But COVID-19 is also contributing to economic meltdowns, food shortages, and COVID-19 . Report authors stated that climate change is a major factor in disasters.
Mami Mizutori, chief of UN Office of Disaster Risk Reduction, stated that people don't realize how much disasters cost today. "If we don’t get ahead of it, it will reach a stage where we can’t manage the consequences of catastrophe." "We are just caught up in this vicious circle."
According to the report, this means that society must rethink its finances, how it handles disasters, and what it values most. Mizutori stated Monday that 90% of disaster relief spending is for emergency assistance, with only 6% going to reconstruction and 4% for prevention.
Mizutori stated that not every earthquake or hurricane has to be a disaster. Planning and prevention can prevent a lot of damage.
In 1990, disasters cost around $70 billion per year. According to the report authors, they now cost $170 billion per year. This is after inflation adjustment. Mizutori added that indirect costs that we don't think about often add up to that figure.
Mizutori stated that disaster deaths have been decreasing over the years due to better prevention and warnings. Roger Pulwarty (a U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration climate and socio scientist) said that disaster deaths have increased in the past five years but not as much as they were the previous five.
Mizutori explained that both COVID-19 as well as climate change disasters have reached places they didn't previously reach, such as Mozambique's tropical cyclones. Pulwarty stated that disasters can also interact, causing more damage. For example, wildfires and heatwaves could be combined with a war in Ukraine, plus fuel and food shortages.
Pulwarty stated that if society changes how it thinks about disasters and prepares for them, the recent rise in disaster deaths could be temporary. Otherwise, it's likely to become "the new normal."
Co-author Markus Enenkel, Harvard Humanitarian Initiative, stated that disasters are more severe for poorer countries than for those in richer nations. Recovery costs take a larger chunk of the economy from those who can't pay it.
He said, "These are the events which can wipe out hard-earned developmental gains, leading already vulnerable areas or whole regions into a downwards spiral."
Pulwarty stated that the sheer number of disasters adds up like little diseases attacking and weakening your immune system.
This report calls for a fundamental change in the way we talk about risk. Instead of asking officials about the likelihood of a disaster occurring this year, as in 5%, they should consider the chance over a 25-year time period. This makes it very likely. Mizutori stated that talking about 100-year floods, or the chances of something happening only a few times per 100 years makes it seem far away.
"In a world of distrust, misinformation, it is a key to moving ahead," stated Susan Cutter, University of South Carolina Hazards Viability and Resilience Institute co-director, who was not part of the report. "We can work together to reduce the risk factors that are driving our society forward: Inequality and poverty, but most importantly climate change.