Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Disaster deaths down but economic losses are rising

Laurie Goering in Reuters AlertNet: Deaths from climate-related natural disasters are falling around the world as early warning systems, storm shelters and other protections are put in place. But economic losses from hurricanes, floods, droughts and other extreme weather as a percentage of total disaster losses are growing, a worrying trend not just for affected families but for governments, aid donors, insurers and the like, disaster risk reduction experts said at climate talks in Copenhagen.

Of 245 disasters in 2009, 224 were weather-related, and those weather disasters accounted for 55 million of the 58 million people affected by disaster around the globe, according to new figures released by the World Health Organisation and the Belgian Centre for Research on Epidemiology of Disasters.

About 7,000 people died from weather-related disasters in 2009, a 10-year low, the figures showed. But climate-related disasters accounted for 84 percent of economic losses from disasters, or about $15 billion. That is likely to continue to grow as climate change brings more severe storms around the world, particularly in coastal regions where half the world's population lives, said Margareta Wahlstrom, the U.N.'s disaster risk reduction chief.

Such concerns are one reason negotiators at Copenhagen are struggling to reach agreement on a new climate pact, with richer nations concerned they could be held accountable for paying the growing costs of recovery from climate-related disasters in the developing world. The new disaster statistics, Wahlstrom said, do not adequately represent the threat from drought, something she called "the most complicated disaster to capture in statistics", largely because it takes hold slowly and kills slowly, usually through malnutrition and generally worsened health…..

A flood in Trizidela do Vale, Brazil, shot by Antônio Cruz/ABr, Wikimedia Commons via Agência Brasil, a public Brazilian news agency. Their website states: "O conteúdo deste site é publicado sob a licença Creative Commons Atribuição 2.5 Brasil

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