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Global hotspots of climate-related disasters

Camila I. Donatti, Kristina Nicholas, Giacomo Fedele, Damien Delforge, Niko Speybroeck, Paula Moraga, Jamie Blatter, Regina Below, Alex Zvoleff

International Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction, 108, 104488

June 01, 2024

Climate change mitigation is crucial to prevent excessive temperature rise, a primary contributor to climate-related impacts. However, even if net zero emissions were achieved immediately, the carbon locked in the atmosphere will continue to impact ecosystems, people, settlements and infrastructure, as observed in the past several decades. Despite the urgent need to minimize climate change impacts, climate adaptation has not kept pace with escalating risks. Data on disaster occurrences and impacts can guide action to where it is most needed. We used data on climate-related disasters recorded between 2000 and 2020 in the Emergency Events Database (EM-DAT) to 1) discern disparities in climate-related disaster impacts across countries and continents, and 2) pinpoint administrative areas where people have been highly impacted from those types of disasters. During this period, over 4,600 occurrences of climate-related disasters were documented, directly impacting over 3.3 billion people. Highly developed countries experienced fewer impacts despite not having a lower number of climate-related events. African countries showed an increase in the number of people impacted through time, despite a decrease in the number of climate-related events. Areas in Central America and the Caribbean, Eastern North America, Eastern Africa and Madagascar, and Southern and Eastern China, India and Southeast Asia had the highest numbers of people impacted per km2. Identifying locations with disproportionally high numbers of impacted people can lead to action and policy shifts, from local to international levels. Some of the approaches to adapt to climate change impacts that can be cost-effective and readily available are those based on nature and the benefits that nature provides to people. Therefore, nature conservation, restoration and management could be important interventions to help people adapt to the impacts of climate change, especially in areas of low human development and where people have experienced high and very high climate impacts. In the policy sphere, synthesizing information on historical occurrences of climate-related disasters could guide efforts to address losses and damages and to promote climate justice.

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Donatti, C. I., Nicholas, K., Fedele, G., Delforge, D., Speybroeck, N., Moraga, P., Blatter, J., Below, R., & Zvoleff, A. (2024). Global hotspots of climate-related disasters. International Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction, 108, 104488.