Political and business leaders worldwide are failing to stop the planet turning into “an uninhabitable hell” for millions of people, the United Nations warned on Monday.
Climate change is largely to blame for a near doubling of natural disasters in the past 20 years, a UN report said.
The UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR) said 7,348 major disaster events occurred between 2000 and 2019, claiming 1.23 million lives, affecting 4.2 billion people, and costing the global economy some $2.97 trillion.
The figure far outstrips the 4,212 major natural disasters recorded between 1980 and 1999, the UN office said in the new report, The Human Cost of Disasters 2000-2019.
The sharp increase was largely attributable to a rise in climate-related disasters, including extreme weather events like floods, drought and storms, the report said, adding that extreme heat is proving especially deadly.
“We are willfully destructive,” UNDRR chief Mami Mizutori told reporters in a virtual briefing. “That is the only conclusion one can come to when reviewing disaster events over the last 20 years.”
She accused governments of not doing enough to prevent climate hazards and called for better preparation for looming disasters.
In a joint foreword to the UN report, Mizutori and Debarati Guha-Sapir of Belgium’s Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters noted developing nations continue to have the odds “stacked against them, in particular by industrial nations that are failing miserably on reducing greenhouse gas emissions”.
“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,” it said.
Guha-Sapir warned if extreme weather events continue to grow at the same rate over the next 20 years, “the future of mankind looks very bleak indeed”.
To avoid that happening, the world must act urgently to invest in prevention, climate change adaptation, and disaster risk reduction, Mizutori said.
She urged governments to show leadership and deliver on promises made in 2015 under the Paris Agreement to tackle climate change, the Sendai Framework to manage disaster risk, and the global development goals set to be achieved by 2030.