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Water-related disasters pose complex challenges

These disasters have claimed the lives of millions and resulted in over $2.97 trillion in economic losses.



PhotographS courtesy of UN Rescue efforts after part of a Himalayan glacier broke away in India’s Uttarakhand province in February, unleashing a torrent of water, rock and debris downstream.

The global climate crisis is “exacerbating and intensifying” water-related disasters, jeopardizing lives and livelihoods, the United Nations (UN) chief said at a major sustainable development symposium.

“For decades, natural disasters, (which) have been one of the major causes of worsening poverty, forcing some 26 million people into poverty each year and reversing developmental gains… are almost always connected to water, whether through floods, storms, droughts, tsunamis or landslides,” Secretary-General António Guterres told the Fifth UN Special Thematic Session on Water and Disasters.

Over the past two decades, climate-related disasters nearly doubled compared with the preceding twenty years, affecting more than four billion people, according to the top UN official.

These disasters have claimed the lives of millions and resulted in over $2.97 trillion in economic losses, he said.

Climate change is altering rainfall patterns, affecting water availability, prolonging periods of drought and heat, and increasing the intensity of cyclones, which can lead to horrific flooding events.
“These trends create enormous challenges for our efforts to build more sustainable, resilient communities and societies by implementing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development,” the UN chief said, warning that they will accelerate over the course of the Decade of Action.

And by 2030, projections suggest a staggering 50 percent jump in humanitarian needs stemming from climate-related disasters.

Limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees through Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC) — national plans demonstrating commitment to increasingly ambitious climate action — is crucial to achieve a 45 percent drop in emissions by 2030 and reach ‘net zero’ by 2050.

However, “we are far off track from meeting these goals,” Guterres said.

“Current commitments are insufficient, and emissions continue to rise. Global average temperatures are already 1.2°C above pre-industrial levels.”