Increase in climate-related disasters sees number of severe natural disasters double in 20 years (UNDRR)

United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction | Published 13 October 2020

The United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction released a report on 13 October 2020 that concluded that natural disasters caused by climate-related events have doubled in the past twenty years.

“Much of the difference is explained by a rise in climate-related disasters including extreme weather events: from 3,656 climate-related events (1980-1999) to 6,681 climate-related disasters in the period 2000-2019.”

Using a comprehensive database, the UNDRR found that from 2000 through 2019 there have been 7,348 major disasters. Of these, 577 struck China, 467 hit the US, and 321 struck India. These disasters killed 1.23 million people, and another 4.2 billion people were affected, some of them more than once.

The report estimated the cost of these disasters at around US $3 trillion. In contrast, from 1980 to 1999, there were 4,212 major natural disasters, which cost $1.63 trillion. So on these figures, natural disasters nearly doubled in number and cost in the past two decades.

The message of the report is that natural disasters may be expected to continue to increase in frequency and severity on the current global warming trajectory. Taking effective action to reduce the extent of global warming might slow the rate at which severe natural disasters occur – but in any event, governments should be planning to spend more on dealing with the impact and consequences of natural disasters.

Visit the UNDRR Human Cost of Disasters media release or download the report (pdf opens, 1.9 MB)