India lost $79.5 billion due to climate-related disasters in last 20 years: UN

• India lost $79.5 billion to climate-related disasters in the last two decades, according to a United Nations (UN) report released on Wednesday.

• The report comes in the wake of the global organization sounding the alarm on the dire effects of climate-change, including a rise in extreme weather events, if warming is not limited to 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels.

• At least 91% of all major disasters recorded from 1988 to 2017 were climate-related, according to the Economic Losses, Poverty and Disasters 1998-2017 report, released by the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction in Geneva.

• The largest number of people (2 billion) were affected by floods, which accounted for 43.4% of these disasters, followed by droughts, which affected a further 1.5 billion people. However, storms were among the most frequently occurring disasters, along with floods.

Important highlights of the report

• India is among five countries after the US, China and Japan and Puerto Rico, which have witnessed the greatest economic losses due to climate-related disasters.
• The report, however, shows that while absolute economic losses might be concentrated in high income countries, the human cost of disasters falls on low- and lower middle-income countries.

• The findings suggest that an average of 130 people died per million living in disaster-affected areas in low income countries, compared to 18 in high-income countries, in disasters since 2000.

• This report highlights the protection gap between rich and poor. The analysis shows that people in low-income countries are six times more likely to lose all their worldly possessions or suffer injury in a disaster than people in high-income countries.

• The UN body highlighted that there has been a “dramatic rise of 251%” globally in direct economic losses from climate-related disasters in the last 20 years.

• In the period 1998-2017, disaster-hit countries reported direct economic losses of $2.9 trillion, 77% out of which was caused by climate-related disasters.

Way forward

• The report’s analysis makes it clear that economic losses from extreme weather events are unsustainable and a major brake on eradicating poverty in hazard-exposed parts of the world.

• The average number of disasters per year has increased to 329 in the latest 20-year period, with climate change increasing the frequency and severity of extreme weather related events, the report concluded.

• The UN Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change also warned against increasing catastrophic climate change risks in its landmark report on global warming.

• It highlighted that the world has already warmed by 1 °C and the impact is evident in terms of extreme weather events, flooding, melting of Arctic ice and rise in sea levels and warned that it would be difficult to limit global warming to 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels, unless urgent, unprecedented measures are taken.

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Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

Prelims level: “Economic Losses, Poverty and Disasters” Report

Mains level: Economic impact of natural disasters on middle income countries like India.

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