Weather Disaster

Hurricane Dennis batters palm trees and floods parts of Naval Air Station (NAS). US Navy/Jim Books.

Monitor on Weather Disasters

More extreme weather is observed today than was recorded 30 years ago. Wind, rains, wildfires, and flooding have claimed lives throughout human existence. Climate change is intensifying these phenomena, worsening floods, storms, and wildfires that claim lives and destroy property and livelihoods.

The most devastating impacts of extreme weather, in particular tropical cyclones, are concentrated in poor tropical and sub-tropical zones of the world. Extreme weather becomes a disaster when communities are unprepared or caught off guard. But most disasters can be relatively easily prevented when people have access to effective early warning systems and basic protection.

Floods, storms, and wildfires have claimed an average of 27,000 lives every year over the past 20 years. Climate change is already estimated to contribute over 3,000 deaths to that toll each year. By 2030, climate change is projected to be responsible for over 7,000 such deaths if measures are not taken to reduce risks. The deadliest of these impacts today are floods.

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Exposure to major floods, storms, and fires tends to be localized and specific. The worst disasters can cost nearly a decade’s worth of global loss of life and damage and can wipe out close to half of an economy. Measures taken in advance to help minimize these impacts are not always cheap. But emergency response measures carried out after the fact are usually far more expensive and will never restore the lives lost that could have been prevented with advance action.

Today, disaster risk reduction – steps to reduce the impacts of possible environmental catastrophes – is a well-developed field. So while the risks of extreme weather are expected to increase, we know where the most acute vulnerabilities lie, and measures exist to reduce risks and exposure to populations and their economies.

Download Adaptation Actions for Weather Disasters of climate change