UNDRR – United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction
Guest essay by Eric Worrall
According to a new United Nations report, “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.”. But like many UN efforts this latest report appears to ignore evidence which contradicts their climate narrative.
Human cost of disasters
An overview of the last 20 years 2000 to 2019
GENEVA, 12 October 2020 – A UN report published to mark the International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction on October 13, confirms how extreme weather events have come to dominate the disaster landscape in the 21st century.
In the period 2000 to 2019, there were 7,348 major recorded disaster events claiming 1.23 million lives, affecting 4.2 billion people (many on more than one occasion) resulting in approximately US$2.97 trillion in global economic losses.
This is a sharp increase over the previous twenty years. Between 1980 and 1999, 4,212 disasters were linked to natural hazards worldwide claiming approximately 1.19 million lives and affecting 3.25 billion people resulting in approximately US$1.63 trillion in economic losses.
Much of the difference is explained by a rise in climate-related disasters including extreme weather events: from 3,656 climate-related events (1980-1999) to 6,681 climate-related disasters in the period 2000-2019.
The last twenty years has seen the number of major floods more than double, from 1,389 to 3,254, while the incidence of storms grew from 1,457 to 2,034. Floods and storms were the most prevalent events.
The report “The Human Cost of Disasters 2000-2019” also records major increases in other categories including drought, wildfires and extreme temperature events. There has also been a rise in geo-physical events including earthquakes and tsunamis which have killed more people than any of the other natural hazards under review in this report.
Mami Mizutori, the UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Disaster Risk Reduction, said today: “We are willfully destructive. That is the only conclusion one can come to when reviewing disaster events over the last twenty years. COVID-19 is but the latest proof that political and business leaders are yet to tune in to the world around them.
“Disaster management agencies, civil protection departments, fire brigades, public health authorities, the Red Cross and Red Crescent, and many NGOs are fighting an uphill battle against an ever-rising tide of extreme weather events. More lives are being saved but more people are being affected by the expanding climate emergency. Disaster risk is becoming systemic with one event overlapping and influencing another in ways that are testing our resilience to the limit. The odds are being stacked against us when we fail to act on science and early warnings to invest in prevention, climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction.
“Good disaster risk governance depends on political leadership and delivery on the promises made when the Paris Agreement and the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction were adopted five years ago. The report is a reminder to UN Member States of their commitment to strengthen disaster risk governance and to have national and local strategies for disaster risk reduction in place by 2020. This is a key target of the global blueprint for reducing disaster losses, the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, which was adopted at a World Conference in 2015. So far, 93 countries have put national strategies in place.”
Professor Debarati Guha-Sapir, Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters, University of Louvain, Belgium, said: “This report covers the first twenty years of this century and does not include biological hazards like COVID-19 but it clearly highlights the level of human suffering and economic loss that result from failure to adapt to climate change and to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. If this level of growth in extreme weather events continues over the next twenty years, the future of mankind looks very bleak indeed.
“We will have to live with the consequences of existing levels of climate change for a long time to come and there are many practical measures that can be taken to reduce the burden of disaster losses especially on low and middle-income countries that lack resources and are most exposed to economic losses on a scale that undermines their efforts to eradicate poverty and to provide good quality social services including health and education.”
KEY STATISTICS: 2000-2019
The statistics in this report are from the Emergency Events Database (EM-DAT) maintained by the Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED) which records disasters which have killed ten or more people; affected 100 or more people; resulted in a declared state of emergency; or a call for international assistance.
Asia suffered the highest number of disaster events. In total, between 2000 and 2019, there were 3,068 disaster events in Asia, followed by the 1,756 events in the Americas and 1,192 events in Africa.
In terms of affected countries globally, China (577 events) and the USA (467 events) reported the highest number of disaster events, followed by India (321 events), Philippines (304 events), and Indonesia (278 events). These countries all have large and heterogenous landmasses and relatively high population densities in at-risk areas.
Overall, eight of the top 10 countries by disaster events are in Asia.
The years 2004, 2008, and 2010 stand out most, having had over 200,000 deaths each. The largest single event by death toll was the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami, 226,400 deaths; the second largest event occurred in 2010, when a 7.0 Richter earthquake struck Haiti in the middle of the night, killing approximately 222,000 people and leaving millions homeless. In 2008, Cyclone Nargis killed over 138,000 people in Myanmar. The average number of deaths worldwide from 2000 to 2019 was approximately 60,000 deaths per year. Since 2010 there have been no mega-disasters (100,000 deaths) and no single year with over 35,000 deaths. A link to the full report is here
Read more: https://www.undrr.org/news/drrday-un-report-charts-huge-rise-climate-disasters
The quote about “an uninhabitable hell” comes from the first page of the report.
When you delve into the report it gets more interesting. Most of the flooding, the main disaster cited, appears to be happening in China.
Floods have accounted for 44% of all disaster events from 2000 to 2019, affecting 1.6 billion people worldwide, the highest figure for any disaster type (Figure 9). Furthermore, floods are the most common type of event with an average of 163 events per year.
The most affected country by flooding in the past two decades was China, which experienced an average of 20 floods per year. Flooding in China affected a total of 900 million people over the two decades, accounting for approximately 55% of people affected by flooding worldwide. India is the 2nd most affected country by floods: it experienced an average of 17 flood events per year and had a total of approximately 345 million people affected. The deadliest flooding events from 2000 to 2019 were the June 2013 floods in India (6,054 deaths), May 2004 floods in Haiti (2,665 deaths), and the July 2010 floods in Pakistan (1,985 deaths).
Floods have the highest impacts in Asia, as the continent experienced 41% of all flooding events and with a total of 1.5 billion people affected, accounted for 93% of people affected by floods worldwide. Africa (763 flood events) and the Americas (680 flood events) experience significant flooding impacts as well. Many of these impacts are preventable since flooding, unlike most types of disasters, has affordable mechanisms of primary prevention, such as dams, dykes and drainage systems.
The problem with the report is there is no evidence human caused climate change is causing major changes in rainfall, vs the alternative explanation of natural variation. The following study, published in 2018 by the Chinese Academy of Science, mostly attributes shifting Chinese rainfall patterns to natural variation.
Attribution of extreme precipitation in the lower reaches of the Yangtze River during May 2016
Chunxiang Li1, Qinhua Tian2, Rong Yu3, Baiquan Zhou4,8, Jiangjiang Xia1, Claire Burke5, Buwen Dong6, Simon F B Tett7, Nicolas Freychet7, Fraser Lott5 and Andrew Ciavarella5Hide full author list
May 2016 was the third wettest May on record since 1961 over central eastern China based on station observations, with total monthly rainfall 40% more than the climatological mean for 1961–2013. Accompanying disasters such as waterlogging, landslides and debris flow struck part of the lower reaches of the Yangtze River. Causal influence of anthropogenic forcings on this event is investigated using the newly updated Met Office Hadley Centre system for attribution of extreme weather and climate events. Results indicate that there is a significant increase in May 2016 rainfall in model simulations relative to the climatological period, but this increase is largely attributable to natural variability. El Niño years have been found to be correlated with extreme rainfall in the Yangtze River region in previous studies—the strong El Niño of 2015–2016 may account for the extreme precipitation event in 2016. However, on smaller spatial scales we find that anthropogenic forcing has likely played a role in increasing the risk of extreme rainfall to the north of the Yangtze and decreasing it to the south.
Read more: https://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/1748-9326/aa9691
The reliance on reported damage figures also appears to ignore human factors w/r to flooding, such as China’s dreadful track record of substandard dam construction. China has even been exporting substandard dam misery abroad, such as the notorious Ecuador Dam China constructed at the base of the earthquake prone Revantador Volcano.
I suspect it would suit China’s government very well to have the recent floods blamed on Climate Change, because a lot of questions are quietly being asked right now inside China, about the utter failure of the Chinese Government’s massive investment in flood control. But the truth is there is no firm evidence climate change is making anything worse.
In my opinion the UNDRR and their sensationalist attempt to blame humans for what is likely an expression of natural variation, is evidence of yet another UN agency which is not fit for purpose.
Update (EW): Updated the description of the Chinese Academy of Science Report.