It doesn’t matter if you believe climate change is a natural or a human-made occurrence. Over the past five decades, the total number of weather-related disasters has multiplied by five times.
The only good news from that data is that fewer deaths have occurred while the number of droughts, floods, and storms has increased.
Although better reporting could be partially responsible for the data increase, over 11,000 weather-related disasters occurred between 1970 to 2019. Two million people lost their lives, with over $3.6 trillion in damage requiring repair.
More than 90% of the deaths have happened in the developing world.
Droughts Are the Most Significant Weather Problem We Face
The biggest killer from adverse weather events is drought. It’s responsible for over 650,000 deaths.
At the other end of the scale, extreme temperature events have taken almost 56,000 lives during the study period.
Although the number of deaths has gone down, so has the total number of recorded disasters. A steady increase happened up through 2009, but the next decade showed a decrease. That means a message of hope is out there within the stark statistics.
That’s not to say the costs of climate change are decreasing. In 2017, three hurricanes accounted for 35% of the total losses from the ten worst disasters from 1970 to 2019.
With only half of today’s countries having access to multi-hazard early warning systems, we must expand this technology to help people stay safe. International cooperation is also required to ensure that the people and families displaced by weather events can find a new place to call home.
On June 29, 2021, Lytton set the Canadian record for the all-time highest temperature ever recorded. The small community in British Columbia experienced a daytime high of 49.6°C, or 121.3°F.
That record beat the temperatures from the previous all-time high set the day before by several degrees.
The town of 250 people was forced to evacuate because wildfires engulfed the community soon after the massive heat descended. Winds of more than 70 kph were fueling the flames, destroying everything in their path.
This event is only one of several scientists fear could happen as the West enters a potential mega-drought.
Ancient Weather Cycles Offer Dire Warnings
Western North America has dealt with drought for about two decades. It has drained rivers, destroyed crops, and fueled massive wildfires.
Scientists fear that this trend could be the start of something that has never happened in recorded history before. Part of the reason for its resilience is artificial climate change, responsible for up to 50% of its destructive impact.
No one knows why the Anasazi people left Chaco Canyon in the 12th century or Mesa Verde a century later. The 16th century megadrought in Mexico could have amplified the cocoliztli epidemics that killed up to half of the indigenous population.
In 2016, researchers found computer models suggesting a 90% risk of a 35-year drought happening by 2100 if climate change remained unabated. The data from 2000 to 2018 already shows that it was the region’s second-driest period of the past 1,200 years.
Although other notable events have occurred in the West, including a drought that lasted for nearly a century in the 1400s, current affairs show that times are changing. If we’re unable to adapt, the future could look bleak a few decades from now—not only for humans, but for fish and wildlife as well.