Extreme weather affected human lives and sustainable development on every continent around the globe in 2018, according to a World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) report released on Thursday.
UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres called the report a “wake-up call” and pointed particularly to the escalating impact of climate change on public health, during a news conference in New York.
“The average number of people exposed to heatwaves has increased by some 125 million since the beginning of the century, with deadly consequences,” Guterres said.
“The combination of extreme heat and air pollution is proving increasingly dangerous, especially as heatwaves will become longer, more intense and more frequent.”
Ahead of a UN climate summit in September, Guterres told world leaders that they shouldn’t “come with a speech – come with a plan.”
Extreme weather and climate events accounted for most of the natural hazards that affected nearly 62 million people during the year, according to the WMO’s annual State of the Climate report.
Some 35 million people were affected by flooding, and more than 1,600 deaths were related to heatwaves and wildfires in Europe, Japan and the U.S., data analysed by the WMO showed.
WMO Secretary General, Petteri Taalas, cited the devastation caused by cyclone Idai, which hit Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe in March, as an example of the need for action.
“Idai’s victims personify why we need the global agenda on sustainable development, climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction,” said Taalas in a statement.
The report includes input from UN agencies, national meteorological and hydrological services, and scientific experts.