Early weather warnings save lives, according to the UN

Early warning systems for meteorological disasters they save many livesbut the economic losses associated with these phenomena have increased at a dizzying rate, the UN reported on Monday.

Between 1970-2021, about two million people died from meteorological phenomenaclimatic or hydrological extremes, according to new figures from the World Meteorological Organization (WMO).

This specialized agency of the UN updated its data until 2021 and revealed that 90% of fatalities occurred in developing countries.

The 11,778 disasters registered in the 51 years studied caused economic losses of 4.3 trillion dollars, it was indicated.

“The most vulnerable communities are, unfortunately, the most affected by weather, climate and hydrological risks,” said WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas.

But, the UN agency stressed that the improvement of early warning systems and the coordinated management of catastrophes They have considerably reduced the number of victims.

For Taalas, it is a priority that these warning systems reach the entire world population, since they allow people to prepare, protect themselves or evacuate in time.

The goal, shared by the UN Secretary General, is to protect the entire world by 2027.

The WMO stressed that these systems not only save lives, but also “multiply by ten, at least, the return on investment.”

In South America, 943 catastrophes attributed to meteorological, climatic and hydrological phenomena were registered and 61% were floods.

These phenomena caused the death of 58,484 people and losses of 115,200 million dollars.

– Economic losses –

At the moment, only half of the countries have early warning systems and coverage is especially weak in Africa and the poorest countries.

The countries of the WMO are meeting starting this Monday in Geneva and are considering ratifying this initiative, in which the UN Office for Disaster Reduction, the International Telecommunications Union and the International Federation of the Red Cross and the International Federation also participate. Red Crescent, with the participation of other actors, from financial institutions to the private sector.

An example is Cyclone Mocha, which wreaked havoc in Myanmar and Bangladesh last week, Taalas said.

Mocha, whose death toll rises to 145, according to the Burmese Board, “caused widespread devastation (…) affecting the poorest of the poor,” said the official, who qualified that this number of victims is much lower than that left behind by similar catastrophes in the past.

“Thanks to early warnings and disaster management, these catastrophic death rates are now, thankfully, a thing of the past. Early warnings save lives,” he said.

On the other hand, economic losses have skyrocketed.

In monetary terms, the most affected have been the rich countries, but if the damage is compared to the size of the economy of the affected nations, then it is the poorest countries that have suffered the greatest losses, the WMO said.

The United States suffered losses of 1.7 trillion dollars, equivalent to 39% of the total losses worldwide since 1970.

Developed countries registered more than 60% of the losses due to meteorological, climatic or water disasters, but in more than four fifths of the cases, these damages are equivalent to less than 0.1% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

By comparison, in 7% of the catastrophes that affected the poorest countries, the losses amounted to more than 5% of GDP.

In some cases, there are disasters that caused damage equivalent to almost a third of GDP.

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