Natural disasters have quadrupled in two decades: study
Sun Nov 25, 9:33 AM ET
More than four times the number of natural disasters are occurring now than did two decades ago, British charity Oxfam said in a study Sunday that largely blamed global warming.
"Oxfam... says that rising green house gas emissions are the major cause of weather-related disasters and must be tackled," the organisation said, adding that the world's poorest people were being hit the hardest.
The world suffered about 120 natural disasters per year in the early 1980s, which compared with the current figure of about 500 per year, according to the report.
"This year we have seen floods in South Asia, across the breadth of Africa and Mexico that have affected more than 250 million people," noted Oxfam director Barbara Stocking.
"This is no freak year. It follows a pattern of more frequent, more erratic, more unpredictable and more extreme weather events that are affecting more people."
She added: "Action is needed now to prepare for more disasters otherwise humanitarian assistance will be overwhelmed and recent advances in human development will go into reverse."
The number of people affected by extreme natural disasters, meanwhile, has surged by almost 70 percent, from 174 million a year between 1985 to 1994, to 254 million people a year between 1995 to 2004, Oxfam said.
Floods and wind-storms have increased from 60 events in 1980 to 240 last year, with flooding itself up six-fold.
But the number of geothermal events, such as earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, has barely changed.
Oxfam urged Western governments to push hard for a deal on climate change at a key international meeting that runs December 3-14 on the Indonesian island of Bali.
Rich Western nations and the United Nations must act to "make humanitarian aid faster, fairer and more flexible and to improve ways to prepare for and reduce the risk of disasters," it said.
The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change conference in Bali aims to see countries agree to launch a roadmap for negotiating cuts in climate-changing carbon emissions from 2012.
The Oxfam study was compiled using data from the Red Cross, the United Nations and specialist researchers at Louvain University in Belgium.