Leaders must act before the earth becomes 'uninhabitable hell': UN

Natural calamities have been rising at a "staggering" speed in the past 20 years.

Credit : Huffington Post

Natural calamities have been rising at a "staggering" speed in the past 20 years. This has been due to the climate crisis, said the United Nations on Monday. According to a CNN report quoting researchers, politicians and business honchos have failed to address the climate change. They have not been doing anything meaningful to check the Earth from becoming "an uninhabitable hell for millions of people."

Over a million people have died while 37 million have been infected by the virus across the globe during the current pandemic. This has led bare the inability of "almost all nations" to stop a "wave of death and illness" even after experts warned about the same, stated the report.

In all, 7,348 natural calamities such as tremors, tsunamis and super storms took place since 2000. These disasters killed 1.23 million people while adversely impacted 4.2 billion. They caused economic losses amounting to $2.97 trillion, said the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR).

As compared to losses caused by the 4,212 catastrophes during 1980-1999, these losses are double, stated the UN report ‘The Human Cost of Disasters 2000-2019’. Climate change was the cause in most of the disasters during the past two decades. More floods, storms, heatwaves, famines, hurricanes and wildfires took place during this period, said, experts.

Rising extreme weather events happened due to a spike in global temperatures, scientists say.

"It is baffling that we willingly and knowingly continue to sow the seeds of our own destruction," said UNDRR chief Mami Mizutori and Debarati Guha-Sapir from Center for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters, Belgium.

"It really is all about governance if we want to deliver this planet from the scourge of poverty, further loss of species and biodiversity, the explosion of urban risk and the worst consequences of global warming," they said in the foreword to the report.

These natural calamities affected Asia most during the past two decades. The continent had 3,068 such events during 2000-2019. The Americas stood at number two with 1,756 disasters followed by 1,192 disasters in Africa. China suffered the highest number of natural catastrophes, 500, while the United States suffered the second-highest, 467 disasters.

Mega calamities that killed over 100,000 people were reported in the Indian Ocean in 2004, in the Cyclone Nargis in Myanmar in 2008 and the Haiti earthquake in 2010.

The only redeeming feature was the protection of vulnerable communities due to improved early warning systems and responses, said the report. Numerous lives could be saved in countries across the globe, including Bangladesh and India, thanks to better disaster management before floods and cyclones. However, researchers have alerted that "the odds continue to be stacked against" the vulnerable communities.

"In particular by industrial nations that are failing miserably on reducing greenhouse gas emissions to levels commensurate with the desired goal of keeping global warming at 1.5 ̊C as set out in the Paris Agreement," said  Mizutori and Guha-Sapir.

The global temperature would rise by 3.2 degrees Celsius and more if developed countries do not cut greenhouse gas emissions drastically, the trend cannot be reversed, said, experts. That estimated temperature rise is likely to trigger the frequency of extreme weather conditions in the world, said the report, causing improvements to disaster response "obsolete in many countries."

Emissions will have to be cut by 7.2% annually over the next decade to reach the 1.5-degree target agreed upon in Paris.

"We have seen little progress on reducing climate disruption and environmental degradation," said UN Secretary-General António Guterres. "To eradicate poverty and reduce the impacts of climate change, we must place the public good above all other considerations."