For once, some good news! The number of people dying from natural disasters has decreased dramatically: in the 1920s over 500,000 people were killed by natural disasters, but this was down to under 75,000 by the 2010s . However, the economic cost of damage has increased . The downwards trend in deaths may be explained by our improving ability to predict natural disasters, and prepare for them before they happen .
BUT: the decrease in deaths from extreme weather may not continue into the future . Storms, droughts, fires and floods could become so serious that human technology won’t be enough to prevent huge numbers of deaths . For example, the number of people exposed to severe drought each year is predicted to increase by about 200,000,000 with 2°C of warming .
HOW do people die from extreme weather?
Floods can destroy crops (causing food insecurity) , and make people drown. Droughts cause food insecurity and a lack of drinking water . Very high temperatures can cause heart attacks , and increases in pollutants like ozone and allergens like pollen, causing asthma .
The 2003 heatwave in Europe caused over 70,000 extra deaths . As heatwaves become more common and severe, we can expect the number of such deaths to increase .