GENEVA, Switzerland, Nov. 23 (UPI) -- A new United Nations report aims to shine the light on the human and economic costs of weather-related disasters.
Of the thousands of disasters nations have suffered over the last two decades, 90 percent have be weather-related. The majority have been caused by floods, storms, heatwaves and droughts.
But the costs of these disasters, the study's authors point out, aren't well established. Only about 35 percent of all major disasters included data on economic losses. The official figure for disaster costs over the last 20 years is $1.891 trillion.
But researchers with the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) suggest the real figure is much larger, between $250 and $350 billion per year.
Previous studies have suggested rising global temperatures will exasperate disaster patterns, encouraging more violent storms and longer periods of intense heat and drought. The latest report suggests the research is right, weather disasters are on the rise as compared to previous decades.
Flooding, the study's authors point out, is becoming more frequent and devastating in many parts of the world as sea levels continue to rise.
To avoid growing economic losses -- and human deaths -- scientists suggest governments work not only to curtail greenhouse gas emissions but to mitigate disaster risks.
"For now, there is a need to reduce existing levels of risk and avoid creating new risk by ensuring that public and private investments are risk-informed and do not increase the exposure of people and economic assets to natural hazards on flood plains, vulnerable low-lying coastlines or other locations unsuited for human settlement," Margareta Wahlstrom, head of UNISDR, said in a press release.
"Economic losses are a major development challenge for many least developed countries battling climate change and poverty," she added.
The United States suffers the highest number of weather related disasters each year, followed by China, India, Philippines, and Indonesia. But less developed countries are typically the most ill prepared for disasters and the likeliest to suffer significant human and economic losses.
Of the deaths caused by storms between 1995 and 2015, 89 percent happened in lower-income countries.