Saturday, May 21

Nearly 142,000 Europeans have died in 40 years due to weather disasters

Heat waves, floods, storms… Meteorological disasters have caused the death of around 142,000 Europeans over the past forty years, according to a report by the European Environment Agency.

Forest fires, droughts, heat waves and cold spells are responsible for 93% of the total number of deaths, according to data analyzed by the agency. The 2003 heat wave alone is responsible for the death of 80,000 deaths in 32 of the European countries studied. Flood-related deaths are much lower.

In addition to human losses, natural disasters have caused immense economic losses, of the order of 510 billion euros over the past forty years. Floods were then responsible for 44% of the total damage bill caused by these events, ahead of storms (34%) and heat waves, droughts, cold spells and forest fires (22%).

“All the disasters that we describe as weather and climate related are influenced by climatic conditions. But that does not mean that they are all influenced by climate change,” explained an expert from the European agency, Wouter Vanneuville. If we cannot make a direct link between the events of the last forty years and climate change, because of the irregularity of these episodes, it is possible that these extreme climatic episodes will be more and more common in the future.

Adapt to potential disasters

“For certain types of phenomena, such as non-tropical storms, the climate signal in Europe is not clear and therefore it is not certain that they are increasing. But for others, such as droughts (not only in the Mediterranean as in Greece, but in most parts of Europe), the climate forecasts indicate an intensification”, explained the scientist.

Hence the importance for experts to implement adaptation measures. After the 2003 heat wave, many measures were put in place, as well as prevention campaigns, which considerably reduced the mortality of the heat waves that followed.

In Europe, the country that suffered the most damage was Germany, with 42,000 dead and financial losses amounting to 107 billion euros. Then come France, (26,700 dead and 99 billion euros in damage) and Italy (21,600 and 90 billion). By comparison, according to the US Weather Agency, the United States has suffered 310 weather and climate disasters since 1980, with damage exceeding $2.155 billion.

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