Cyclone Amphan Cost India $14 Billion in Damages: UN Report
Cyclone Amphan, which caused catastrophic damage in India last May, resulted in the country sustaining losses worth $14 billion, according to a United Nations report published yesterday.
Titled State of the Global Climate 2020, the report was prepared by the World Meteorological Association, a specialized UN body, and outlined the human and economic toll of the devastating cyclone that hit Odisha and West Bengal in India, along with neighboring countries last year. Amphan was the “costliest tropical cyclone on record for the North Indian Ocean,” the report noted, and highlighted that a total of 129 people died as a result of the natural disaster. Almost 2.5 million people were displaced in Bangladesh and 2.4 million in India — mostly in West Bengal and Odisha.
“…many returned relatively soon afterward, [but] damage to more than 2.8 million homes likely resulted in homelessness and prolonged displacement for many thousands,” the report states.
The findings also do a round-up of extreme weather events — like severe droughts, prolonged wildfires, and heavy floods — the world witnessed in 2020. The number of tropical cyclones, like Amphan, reached record levels — with 98 tropical storms recorded globally in 2020 itself.
“2020 was an unprecedented year for people and the planet. It was dominated by the Covid19 pandemic. But this report shows that 2020 was also another unprecedented year of extreme weather and climate disasters… The data in this report should alarm us all,” António Guterres, Secretary-General of the UN, said in a statement.
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The data also reiterates the link between climate change and extreme weather, and how it exacerbates the frequency and magnitude of climate disasters. More than 2,000 people reportedly died last year due to flash floods and landslides caused by heavy rains across India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, and Myanmar during the monsoon season. Rains are becoming frequent and heavier due to changing climate patterns.
The extreme weather events deal humankind a double blow in 2020 when seen in the backdrop of an ongoing global pandemic that has precipitated an economic crisis of its own. Several nations, including India, are struggling to recover economically as a result of Covid19-induced lockdown.
The UN report is a reminder for countries to take immediate steps to address climate change, outlining the tangible toll natural disasters take — in terms of human life and economy. Scientists worry carbon emissions are already bouncing back to pre-Covid19 levels globally, the situation is likely to worsen. In fact, the average global temperature recorded in 2020 was found to be the second-highest in human history, almost 1.2° Celsius above pre-industrial levels, between 1850-1900. If this crosses 1.5° Celsius, scientists warn of increased risks to “health, livelihoods, food security, water supply, human security, and economic growth.”
However, all is not lost. If countries around the world — both developed and developing — combine their efforts in fighting climate change by switching to renewable forms of energy, among other things, it may still be possible to address climate change, and its impact on lives and livelihoods.
If not, natural disasters will threaten human life as they become even more stronger, and even more frequent.
“We are on the verge of the abyss… This is the year for action — the make it or break it year,” Guterres said, urging governments across the globe to commit to zero emissions by 2050. “The report shows that we have not time to waste. The climate is changing, and the impacts are already too costly for people and the planet.”