The 5 Most Destructive Natural Disasters of the Past 10 Years
Are Natural Disasters Increasing?
The number of natural disasters has risen dramatically in the past two decades. Natural disasters are surging exponentially and causing expanding amounts of destruction every year.
According to The New England Journal of Medicine, since 1990, natural disasters have affected about 217 million people each year and there were three times as many natural disasters between 2000 and 2009 compared to 1980-1989.
Most (80%) of this growth is the direct result of climate change. Weather conditions have become extremely unpredictable and extreme. Scientists agree this is the consequence of global warming. We could call it "payback time" for all the pollution we've released into the environment of our planet.
Geophysical vs. Climate-Related Disasters
Geophysical disasters include volcanoes, earthquakes, volcanoes, rockfalls, landslides, and avalanches, those in which there may be no clear-cut causal relationship between the disaster and the weather.
For climate-related disasters, we can draw direct causal connections between the disaster and the weather. These include hydrological events such as floods, storm surges, and coastal flooding, plus meteorological events like storms, tropical cyclones, heat/cold waves, drought, and wildfires.
The Rising Cost of Global Warming
Another thing that has risen in the past years are the financial costs incurred by natural disasters. International organizations such as the Red Cross say that the world's yearly post-disaster cost is around 65 billion US dollars. Compare that to the four billion spent fifty years ago, adjust for inflation, and you'll see how expensive reparations are becoming.
Because of our careless abuse of the environment, the number of natural disasters and the cost of cleaning them up will continue to rise.
Earthquake in Haiti, 2010
January 12, 2010: The earthquake that hit Haiti's capital city, Port au Prince, affected more than three million people, caused over 200,000 deaths, left two million homeless, and left three million people in need of emergency assistance. More than 250,000 homes were destroyed along with 30,000 other buildings. Haitians received help from all over the world (at least $195 million US were raised, with more pledges promised. The US and European Union promised long-term help for reconstruction of the city) but today, Port au Prince has still not recovered.
Tsunami in Sumatra, 2004 (The Indian Ocean Earthquake)
December 26, 2004: The earthquake with a power of 9.15 on the Richter scale that hit the Sumatra coast in the Indian Ocean a day after Christmas sent deadly waves completely erased parts of Sumatra and left nothing behind. Also known as the Sumatra-Andaman earthquake, it lasted only ten seconds but resulted in 200,000 to 310,000 deaths on the shores of Indonesia, Sri Lanka, South India, and Thailand.
Today, with the help of donations, more than 52,000 homes and 300 hospitals have been rebuilt, most of the infrastructure has been repaired, and normal life has resumed.
Hurricane Katrina, 2005
On August 29, 2005, Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast of the US, overwhelming levees on the Mississippi River and leaving significant parts of the city of New Orleans under water. This was the sixth strongest and fifth most destructive hurricane to ever hit the US. It killed 1,833 people and material damage was estimated at $81 billion dollars. Now, years after the hurricane, many people are still displaced and reconstruction is not complete.
Earthquake in Pakistan, 2005
On October 8, 2005, the Kashmir earthquake, which registered 7.6 in the Richter scale, with an epicenter near the India-Pakistan border, took 86,000 lives and left 106,000 people injured. Humanitarian movements raced against time to build shelters and give food to 500,000 people in the wake of the devastation. The earthquake destroyed 600,000 homes and left three million people homeless, but with time and help, including over $5.4 billion US dollars in aid from all over the world, life is now back to normal there.
Sichuan Earthquake in China, 2008
On May 12, 2008, in the Sichuan Province in China, an earthquake with a magnitude of 7.9 killed 69,197 people (with 18,222 missing still missing). The earthquake did damage estimated at $85 billion dollars. Three years after the catastrophe, people were still living in tents, with no money or hope to build a new home. Many have donated money to the reconstruction effort, but funds have been misplaced or misspent.
Prognosis for Global Warming: Will There Be More Natural Disasters?
According to the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which is by all accounts, including articles in The New York Times, a fairly conservative group that has built-in measures to avoid alarmism and find the lowest common denominator on which the majority of scientists can agree, even the IPCC says that humans have caused global warming that has, in turn, caused this increase in natural disasters, and that this damage will continue to increase.
These are the facts stated explicitly or alluded to by the IPCC in their report following their last meeting in 2013:
- If we keep ignoring the IPCC's recommendations then, on average, the total global warming (from preindustrial levels) is headed toward 4°C (7°F). The US faces warming in the range of 5°C (9°F) by the year 2100.
- Sea levels are rising faster and faster. A much more rapid sea level rise is now projected (28-97 cm by the year 2100). With unabated emissions, the IPCC estimates that by the year 2300, global sea levels will rise by 1-3 meters.
- There have been and will be increasing storm surges as a result of sea level rise. More intense deluges are very likely.
- In addition, arid areas are likely to get drier and wet areas wetter.
- Near-surface permafrost at high northern latitudes will be reduced as the global mean surface temperature increases. By the end of the 21st century, the area of surface permafrost (the upper 3.5 m layere) will decrease by between 37% (RCP2.6) to 81% (RCP8.5) on average.
- “Climate change will affect carbon cycle processes in a way that will exacerbate the increase of CO2 in the atmosphere (high confidence). Further uptake of carbon by the ocean will increase ocean acidification.”