Climate Change

More than 200 natural disasters across world in 1st half of 2020

Cyclone Amphan was the world’s costliest natural disaster, at an estimated economic loss of $15 billion

By Kiran Pandey
Published: Thursday 23 July 2020

At least 207 natural disasters were recorded globally in the first six months of 2020 — this is above the 21st century average (2000-2019) of 185 disasters. The number of events exceeded average in all regions except the Americas.

There was an increase of at least 27 per cent in natural disasters recorded during the same time in 2019. Between January and June 2019, at least 163 natural disasters were recorded. 

These disasters cost the world $75 billion, according to the Aon catastrophe report, titled Global Catastrophe Recap: First Half of 2020, released on July 23, 2020. This is close to the average loss of $78 billion during 1980-2019. These numbers are preliminary and will change as losses continue to develop, according to the report.

At least $71 billion, over 95 per cent of the loss, was due to the weather-related disasters. In fact, around 92 per cent of these disasters between January and June were weather-related.

Cyclones, the costliest

The economic loss due to tropical cyclone increased by 270 per cent above the average of 2000-2019.

Cyclone Amphan, the strongest on record in Bay of Bengal, is the world’s costliest, with $15 billion economic loss estimated so far, according to the report. It is among the 20 disasters that costed in billions this year.

The cyclone had devastated the Gulf of Bengal — India and Bangladesh — in May 2020. It was the third-most severe storm witnessed by the region since 1999. West Bengal and the coastal districts of Odisha bore brunt of the extreme weather event attributed to the changing climate.

At least 18 out of 20 of these events were weather-related, except the Puerto Rico and Zagreb Earthquakes. 

While 12 of these billion-dollar events were in America, two Asian countries — India and China — suffered the most with over 20 billion dollars lost to weather-related disasters.

According to the report, severe convective storms drove economic losses and accounted for nearly 80 per cent of global insured losses. At least $30 billion is the insured loss due to natural disasters, according to the report.

Globally 2,200 lives lost

Natural disasters claimed roughly 2,200 lives during the first half of 2020. Floods accounted for nearly 60 per cent of the total toll during this time.

Asia-Pacific region recorded the maximum number with 1,002 lives lost, even though the value was at its lowest since at least 1972, according to the report. The estimates in the report showed that Asia Pacific and Africa jointly accounted for 71 per cent of lives lost in first half.

Last year too, floods along with the cyclones claimed over 2,900 lives during the same period and most of the deaths due to tropical cyclones in the first half of 2019 occurred in Africa, according to the report.

Climate change is likely to make tropical cyclones more intense, warned the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

The intensity of tropical cyclones is projected to increase by 1-10 per cent for a 2 degree Celsius rise in average global temperature above pre-industrialisation era, warned IPCC. This means that there is a higher probability of an even larger percentage increase in the destructive potential per storm.

The scale of economic damage due to extreme weathers, especially cyclones and floods, reiterate the need to focus on effective mitigation and climate-resilience actions.

India’s recent assessment on climate change cited climate models that project a rise in the intensity of tropical cyclones in the NIO basin during the 21st century.

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