Humanity stuck in ‘spiral of self-destruction’: UN

Rescue workers carry body bags containing the retrieved bodies of victims of a landslide that slammed the village of Bunga in Baybay town, Leyte province on April 13, 2022, days after heavy rains inundated the town brought about by Tropiical storm Megi. Bobbie Alota, AFP
Rescue workers carry body bags containing the retrieved bodies of victims of a landslide that slammed the village of Bunga in Baybay town, Leyte province on April 13, 2022, days after heavy rains inundated the town brought about by Tropiical storm Megi. Bobbie Alota, AFP

GENEVA, Switzerland — Humanity is suffering from a “broken perception of risk”, spurring us into activities and behaviors that cause climate change and a surging number of disasters around the globe, the UN warned Tuesday.

In a fresh report, the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction, or UNDRR, found that between 350 and 500 medium- to large-scale disasters took place globally every year over the past 2 decades.

That is 5 times more than the average during the 3 preceding decades, it said.

And amid the changing climate, disastrous events brought on by drought, extreme temperatures and devastating flooding are expected to occur even more frequently going forward.

The report estimated that by 2030, we will be experiencing 560 disasters around the world every year — or 1.5 disasters every day on average.

UNDRR said in a statement that the sharp rise in disasters globally could be attributed to a “broken perception of risk based on optimism, underestimation and invincibility”.

This, it said, had led to policy, finance and development decisions that exacerbate vulnerabilities and put people in danger.

Ignoring the towering risks we face “is setting humanity on a spiral of self-destruction,” UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed warned in the statement.

Ignoring risks has come at a high price.

Disasters around the world have cost roughly $170 billion (160 billion euros) each year over the past decade, the report found.

But most of that is incurred in lower-income countries, which on average lose 1 percent of their national GDP to disasters each year, compared to just 0.1 to 0.2 percent in wealthier nations.

The Asia and Pacific regions suffer the greatest economic losses, the report found.

And as the number of disasters increase, the costs will as well.

The report estimated that 37.6 million more people will be living in conditions of extreme poverty by 2030 due to the impacts of climate change and disasters.

Most disaster-related losses are meanwhile not covered by insurers.

Since 1980, only about 40 percent have been covered globally, but in developing countries the less than 10 percent of such losses had insurance coverage.

“Disasters can be prevented, but only if countries invest the time and resources to understand and reduce their risks,” UNDRR chief Mami Mizutori stressed in the statement.

However, she warned, “by deliberately ignoring risk and failing to integrate it in decision making, the world is effectively bankrolling its own destruction.”

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