2023 In Review: Climate disasters claimed 12,000 lives globally in 2023

2023 In Review: Climate disasters claimed 12,000 lives globally in 2023
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20 December 2023
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LONDON/GENEVA, 20 December 2023- At least 12,000 people - 30% more than in 2022 - lost their lives due to floods, wildfires, cyclones, storms, and landslides globally in 2023, according to a new analysis from Save the Children. [1]

In around 240 such climate-related events recorded in 2023, international disaster database EM-DAT recorded a 60% rise in the number of deaths from landslides, a 278% increase in deaths from wildfires and a 340% increase in deaths from storms between 2022 and 2023, driven in large part by the devastating death toll in Libya from the floods that resulted from Storm Daniel in September. Extreme weather events are becoming more frequent and severe as a result of the climate crisis.

Save the Children’s analysis of EM-DAT data also underlines how the world’s low income countries have borne the brunt of the climate crisis in 2023, with over half of the people killed in 2023 being from low income or lower-middle income countries [2], and almost half (45%) of those killed (5,326) from countries responsible for less than 0.1% of the world’s emissions according to the EU’s Emissions Database for Global Atmospheric Research (EDGAR).

Kelley Toole, Global Head of Climate Change at Save the Children said:

“The analysis clearly shows how the climate crisis disproportionately affects those who have done least to cause it and are least able to withstand its most damaging effects, further entrenching inequality, poverty, and displacement.

The thousands of deaths from extreme weather events this year are a particularly stark example of the huge impact that climate change has on children, families, and communities. Climate disasters leave children homeless, out of school, hungry and fearful that floods, storms, and wildfires will take the lives of their loved ones.

We need to significantly scale up climate finance and make it more responsive to children’s needs, including for loss and damage. An agreement to ‘transition away’ from fossil fuels at COP28 is a step in the right direction but falls short of the rapid fossil fuel phase-out desperately needed to secure a just transition for children globally.”

2023 was marked by a number of cataclysmic climate disasters for children and their families.

Cyclone Freddy brought destruction to Madagascar, Malawi, and Mozambique in February, before striking Mozambique for a second time in March. The cyclone, one of the longest-lived tropical cyclones on record, killed upwards of 1,400 people across the region, displaced thousands and destroyed over 1,600 schools in Mozambique and Malawi, disrupting the learning of hundreds of thousands of children.

In Madagascar, schoolgirls Anjo, 11, and Juliana, 6, were among the children who missed out on learning after the cyclone destroyed their schools. Save the Children helped the girls with school supplies to help them return to school.

Anjo said: "All my notebooks got wet and damaged during the cyclone. I am now keen to go to school, thank you very much for the school bag and the school kits.

Juliana’s father has been out of work due to the extreme weather and the damage. **Juliana said: **“As a result, we are not eating well enough. Save the Children gave me a schoolbag, pens, pencils, erasers, and notebooks. Not only that but also money to my mother. After that, the quality of the food improved, and I am motivated to go to school.”

In Pakistan, almost 200 people, almost half of them children, were killed in rain-related incidents during the monsoon season which began in late June, according to ECHO and UN reports. This year’s rains have amplified a still challenging situation for communities following the mega floods of 2022, which were some of the worst in the country’s history. Almost 500 children lost their lives in last year’s devastating deluge.

While better forecasting, disaster preparedness and management have over the last century reduced the number of people who die from weather-related disasters, the number of global extreme weather events has increased five-fold over the past 50 years according to the World Meteorological Organization. Modelling research by Vrije Universiteit Brussel released by Save the Children found that a child born in 2020 will experience on average seven times more heatwaves in their lifetime than someone born in 1960, twice as many wildfires, and nearly three times the exposure to river floods, crop failures and droughts.

As the world’s leading independent child rights organization, Save the Children works in 116 countries, tackling climate across everything we do. Save the Children supports children and their communities globally in preventing, preparing for, adapting to, and recovering from climate disasters and gradual climate change. We have set up floating schools, rebuilt destroyed homes and provided cash grants to families hit by disasters to provide the basic needs of children.

Save the Children also works with child climate campaigners who are demanding change. Children across the world are calling for better access to climate education, more funding for climate-resilient infrastructure and a seat at the table with decision-makers.

ENDS

Notes to Editors:

[1] Save the Children used the international disaster database (EM-DAT) to identify the number of people killed as a result of wildfires, floods, cyclones and other storms and landslides since 2019. Droughts and extremes of temperature while linked to climate change were excluded due to the difficulty in capturing all deaths attributed to these. The EM-DAT database was last accessed on 18 December 2023 and covers up to 6 December 2023. Given that data for 2023 is still incomplete, year-on-year changes were calculated based on monthly averages for that year.

[2] Countries’ income groupings were based on World Bank classifications. Venezuela is currently unclassified by the World Bank however; we considered it to be a lower-middle income country for the purpose of this analysis based on this study by the Inter-American Development Bank. 

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