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Climate Talks Must Address Human Cost of Extreme Weather Disasters: UN

The number of annual weather-related disasters has been climbing along with global temperatures

Hurricane Earl's approach. (Photo: Zach Frailey/flickr/cc)

Underscoring yet another reason why an ambitious climate deal must come out of upcoming COP21 talks in Paris, a new United Nations report warns of the "high price" of extreme weather disasters that are spurred in large part by a warming globe and rising sea levels.

"Weather and climate are major drivers of disaster risk and this report demonstrates that the world is paying a high price in lives lost," said Margareta Wahlström, head of the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR), in a press release on Monday.

The report and analysis compiled by UNISDR and the Belgian-based Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED)—entitled The Human Cost of Weather Related Disasters (pdf)—demonstrates that since the first UN climate change conference (COP1) in 1995, 606,000 lives have been lost and 4.1 billion people have been injured, left homeless or in need of emergency assistance, as a result of weather-related disasters including floods, storms, heatwaves, and droughts.

And the numbers have been climbing along with global temperatures, as weather-related disasters occurred almost daily over the last decade. In total, an average of 335 such disasters were recorded per year between 2005 and 2014, an increase of 14 percent from 1995-2004, and almost twice the level recorded during 1985-1995.

Though the report does not calculate what percentage of this rise is due to climate change, it does predict that "we will witness a continued upward trend in weather-related disasters in the decades ahead." Several recent studies have linked extreme weather with human-caused climate change.

In turn, "the contents of this report underline why it is so important that a new climate change agreement emerges from the COP21 in Paris," Wahlström said. "In the long term, an agreement in Paris at COP21 on reducing greenhouse gas emissions will be a significant contribution to reducing damage and loss."

To call attention to how rising emissions and resulting extreme weather events could "affect our homes and the places we cherish" in advance of COP21, the World Meteorological Organization earlier this year invited television weather presenters from around the world to imagine a "weather report from the year 2050."

Watch one such "report" below:

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