May 22 (UPI) — More than 2 million peopled died as a result of weather-related disasters that caused an estimated $4.3 trillion in economic damage from 1970 to 2021, the World Meteorological Organization said Monday.
The WMO said the United States alone saw $1.7 trillion in economic damage over the 51-year-period, though more than 90% of the deaths occurred in developing economies.
“The most vulnerable communities unfortunately bear the brunt of weather, climate and water-related hazards,” WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas said in issuing the report.
Humanitarian agencies were bracing for the worst earlier this month, as powerful Cyclone Mocha clocked wind gusts of 195 mph ahead of landfall on Myanmar. U.N. humanitarian coordinator AI Ramanathan Balakrishnan said the storm created a “nightmare scenario” given humanitarian needs in the region.
Mocha, however, caused only six deaths after it missed the world’s largest refugee camp. Taalas said past storms in the area led to widespread devastation, but much of the region was spared thanks in part to emergency preparedness.
“Early warnings save lives,” he said.
Monday marked the start of the quadrennial World Meteorological Congress, where delegates are highlighting the importance of early-warning systems for extreme weather events.
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has a goal of a establishing a global alert system by the end of 2027.
“These are a proven, effective climate adaptation measure that saves lives and provide at least a tenfold return on investment,” the U.N.’s weather agency said. “However, only half of countries have early warning systems in place, with coverage especially low in Small Island Developing States, Least Developed Countries and in Africa.”
The U.N. meeting, meanwhile, comes less than two weeks before the start of hurricane season in the Atlantic. The federal government releases its annual forecast for the season later this week.