Climate change is largely responsible for a doubling in the number of natural disasters since 2000, the United Nations said yesterday, as it warned that the Earth was becoming uninhabitable for millions of humans.
Three-quarters of a billion more people were affected by catastrophic events of nature over the past two decades than in the 20 years before, the UN's office for disaster risk reduction said.
Calling humanity "wilfully destructive", it said the data was a wake-up call to governments that had failed to take the threat of climate change seriously or to prepare for more natural disasters.
"It is baffling that we willingly and knowingly continue to sow the seeds of our own destruction, despite the science and evidence that we are turning our home into an uninhabitable hell for millions of people," the authors said.
The report found that there were 7348 major recorded disaster events between 2000 and 2019, compared with 4212 between 1980 and 1999.
Climate-related disasters explained the bulk of the rise, increasing from 3656 to 6681.
Floods and storms were the most common events. The incidence of flooding more than doubled, from 1389 to 3254.
Mami Mizutori, the UN's representative for disaster risk reduction, said that NGOs and emergency services were "fighting an uphill battle against an ever-rising tide of extreme weather events".
She added: "The odds are being stacked against us when we fail to act on science and early warnings to invest in prevention, climate-change adaptation and disaster-risk reduction," she said.
Asia was the worst-hit continent, and China the worst-affected country, followed by the US. Overall, more than 4 billion people were affected by disasters, a rise from 3.25 billion.
Though mobile phone technology and improved weather forecasting limited the lives lost to natural disasters, with the death toll growing from 1.19 million to 1.23 million, the economic impact grew significantly, with agriculture in particular disrupted.
While they were less common, geophysical disasters like earthquakes and tsunamis were the most deadly, with the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami, which killed 226,400, recorded as the largest single event by death toll, followed by the 2010 earthquake in Haiti.
This year was not included in the data, but has so far seen one of the most active fire and hurricane seasons the US has ever experienced, as well as significant flooding across Asia.
Climate scientists warned that a warmer climate makes hurricanes and severe storms more likely, and promotes the conditions that allow forest fires to start and spread.