Live

Watch CBSN Live

Dramatic increase expected in fierce storms and wildfires, U.N. agencies say

Climate scientists on 2020 wildfires, storms
Climate scientists on 2020 wildfires, storms 13:14

United Nations — Two million deaths, $3.6 trillion in economic losses and 11,000 disasters over the past 50 years, is the toll that extreme weather has taken, according to a 16-agency report published this week by the United Nations. The "2020 State of Climate Services" said those numbers represent a five-fold increase in the number of recorded disasters.

"Extreme weather and climate events have increased in frequency, intensity and severity as result of climate change and hit vulnerable communities disproportionately hard," according to the report, which was coordinated by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), the U.N.'s weather agency.

"From wildfires out West to floods in South Sudan, climate-fueled disasters are destroying lives and livelihoods in every corner of the world," Ambassador Elizabeth Cousens, president and CEO of the United Nations Foundation, told CBS News.

global-map-climate-threat-assessment.jpg
This global map shows the top hazard for number of deaths (circle) and the top hazard for economic losses (square) either by flood (blue), extreme temperature (yellow), wildfire (red), drought (brown) and storm (purple). United Nations

"Early warning is critical to saving lives, reducing risk, and increasing resilience, yet 1 in 3 people in the world are not covered by early warning systems," Cousens said.

"In its latest report, the WMO makes crystal clear that this needs urgent redress and early warnings allow for early action, and early action saves lives," she added.

California's disastrous 2020 fire season 09:27

The threat of natural disasters has been around throughout human development, foreshadowed by the storm that opens Shakespeare's "The Tempest," but research shows that the intensity and destructiveness of storms across the U.S. and around the globe, has increased with climate change.

The U.N. Environment program this week published a paper that cautioned: "Don't ignore economic lessons of the Great Recession."

The new WMO report of combined U.N. agencies and climate scientists and financial experts cited in the report — including the World Health Organization, Red Cross and the World Bank — concludes that the number of people who need international humanitarian help could rise 50% by 2030.

"Early warning systems (EWS) constitute a prerequisite for effective disaster risk reduction," WMO secretary-general Petteri Taalas said.

"While COVID-19 generated a large international health and economic crisis from which it will take years to recover, it is crucial to remember that climate change will continue to pose an on-going and increasing threat to human lives, ecosystems, economies and societies for centuries to come," he said.

"Recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic is an opportunity to move forward along a more sustainable path towards resilience and adaptation in the light of anthropogenic climate change," Taalas added.

Dealing with the global triple hit of COVID-19, climate change and a severe global recession is now the focus of several multinational financial institutions.

The International Monetary Fund said this week that the pandemic-related recession will shrink the global economy by 4.4% for 2020 — the worst downturn since the Great Depression.

On Wednesday, Elliot Harris, the U.N.'s chief economist, and Leila Fourie, CEO of the Johannesburg Stock Exchange, spoke at a virtual meeting at the U.N. about the development of "green" and "COVID-19" bonds, to raise money to battle the triple threat.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue