According to the UN, floods are the disasters that affected the most people in the 21st century, followed by droughts and storms.

The passage of the cold drop through Orihuela (Alicante)

The world suffered 6,681 climate-related natural disasters in the first two decades of the 21st century, an increase of 80% compared to the 3,656 registered in the last 20 years of the 20th century, according to a UN study released this week that shows once again the negative effects of climate change. Before breaking down this document, it should be noted that in Spain heat waves are the event that causes more deaths, more than floods or fires, sAccording to Civil Protection and Emergencies reports.

The research, prepared by the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR), shows that between 2000 and 2019 1.23 million people died in natural disasters (including those of climatic and geological origin, such as earthquakes), which affected 4.2 billion people.

In contrast, between 1980 and 1999 natural disasters, which do not include epidemics or pandemics, caused the death of 1.19 million people and affected 3.250 million.

The economic losses derived from these disasters amounted to 2.97 trillion dollars in the first two decades of the 21st century, compared to 1.63 trillion in the previous period, although the UN recognizes difficulty in calculating these figures, especially in natural disasters that occurred in developing countries.

“More lives are being saved, but more people are being affected by the growing climate emergency“, The United Nations special representative for disaster prevention, Mami Mizutori, concluded when presenting the study. “Catastrophe risk has become systemic, with some disasters influencing others in a way that our endurance is being pushed to the limit“, He stressed.

Heat waves

The report highlights, for example, that droughts have increased by 29% in the 2000-2019 period compared to 1980-1999, from 263 to 338, but the growth has been even more striking in extreme weather events. (waves of heat and cold), which went from 130 to 432, an increase of 232%

At least 165,000 people died in those waves, although expert Debarati Guha-Sapir, who presented the study, stressed that many deaths in poor countries may not have been reportedas most of these data were obtained from hospitals in Europe.

The professor at the Center for Research on Disaster Epidemiology at the Catholic University of Leuven also noted that more than 90% of those deaths They occurred in heat waves, with a much higher mortality rate than cold ones.

Guha-Sapir recalled that these heat waves increase in frequency and could affect a third of the world’s population if the average temperature in this century increases by two degrees, as warned by reports on the fight against global warming.

Floods vs earthquakes

So far this century, floods are the events that affected the most people (1,650 million), followed by droughts (1,430 million) and storms (727 million), by only 118 million in earthquakes.

The classification varies completely if one considers the mortality of these catastrophes, being the earthquakes the ones that killed the most people in the 21st century (721,000, 58% of the total), followed far behind by those killed in storms (199,000), 165,000 in extreme weather waves, and 104,000 in floods.

By regions, Asia suffered the most disasters natural between 2000 and 2019 (3,068), followed by America (1,756) and Africa (1,192). In the list of countries, China was the hardest hit with 577 catastrophic events between 2000 and 2019, followed by the US (467), India (321), the Philippines (304) and Indonesia (278).

Guha-Sapir noted that eight of the 10 countries where losses from these disasters were greatest relative to its gross domestic product They were small island nations, also the most threatened by global warming.

The black years

The worst natural catastrophe of the century in terms of fatalities was the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, which caused 226,400 deaths, followed by the 2010 Haiti earthquake (222,000) and the cyclone Nargis which in 2008 killed about 138,000 people in Burma (Myanmar).

In Europe, the 2003 heat wave caused more than 72,000 deaths, and the 2010 heat wave in Russia killed 55,000 people, also ranking high on the list of worst disasters of this century.

The study indicates that 2004, 2008 and 2010 were the years hardest hit by this type of disaster, with more than 200,000 deaths in each one of them, when the average for the century was 60,000 and in the last decade no year exceeded 35,000.

It also shows that since 2010 there has been no mega event catastrophic (with more than 100,000 deaths) such as those that did occur in the three years mentioned.

Although the research does not cover epidemics and pandemics occurred in recent decades, which have also been increasing, Mizutori stressed that COVID-19 “has served to raise awareness about the risk that surrounds us.”

“This pandemic is terrible, but the climate emergency can be even worse, so this can serve as a warning for the future, “he said, adding that COVID-19” has shown that many countries have good prevention plans but they don’t invest enough in them. “