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jueves, 11 de octubre de 2018

Natural disasters: The high cost of climate change

In the last two decades, Mexico has been struck by earthquakes, floods, and hurricanes that have represented a considerable expense for the government, according to a report issued by the United Nations (UN) for risk assessment in the face of natural disasters.

Geophysical and climate-related disasters have cost the country a total of 46.5 billion dollars between the years 1998 and 2017.

Mexico ranks among the 10 countries that have accumulated the largest losses as a consequence of natural disasters. In Latin America, the country ranks second after Puerto Rico, which has spent 71.7 billion dollars in repairs and contingency plans. Other countries on the list are: The United States, with 944 billion; China, with 490 billion; Japan, with 376 billion; India, 75 billion; Germany, 57 billion; Italy, 56 billion; Thailand, 52 billion, and France, with 43 billion.

Putting these expenses in contrast with the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), the five nations that have been most affected are: Haiti, with losses representing 17.5% of their GDP; Honduras, with 7%; Cuba, with 4.6%; El Salvador, 4.2%, and Nicaragua, 3.6%.

According to the report, which was elaborated in cooperation with the Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED), direct losses from natural disasters at a global scale totalled 2.9 trillion dollars during said period, out of which 77% was associated with extreme weather events, mainly floods and storms. This amount represents a 151% increase compared with losses registered between 1978 and 1997.

Human losses caused by natural disasters in the last 20 years rose to 1.3 million, while there were another 4.4 billion injured.

“This data shows that, although the largest economic losses were mainly focused on high-income countries, the human cost of natural disasters was highest in low and middle-income countries,” the document states.

Earthquakes, which accounted for 563 natural disasters, including tsunamis, where the most lethal catastrophes, causing a total of 747,234 deaths (56% of the total), though the study showed that “hydro-meteorological phenomena caused the biggest impact on both the world population and the economy.”

The most destructive natural disaster in financial terms was the Katrina hurricane in September 2005, with a toll of 156 billion dollars, followed by the hurricane Harvey in August 2017, which cost the U.S. government 95 billion dollars. Furthermore, the hurricane Wilma represented an overall loss of 25 billion dollars, affecting Mexico, the United States, Honduras, and the Caribbean in 2005.

“The report has shown that economic losses caused by weather phenomena are unsustainable and represent an important setback in the fight against poverty within the most affected areas,” claimed Mami Mizutori, a special UN representative for Disaster Reduction.

Extreme climatic events have also increased in frequency. Between 1978 and 1997, there were 165 natural disasters while between 1998 and 2017, there were 329.
 

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