However, a new report released Tuesday by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) states that climate change is an even “bigger catastrophe” than the pandemic and “has been building for many decades.”
“The impacts of global warming are already killing people and devastating lives and livelihoods every year, and they will only get worse without immediate and determined action. The frequency and intensity of climatological events are increasing substantially, with more category 4 and 5 storms, more heatwaves breaking temperature records and more heavy rains, among many other extremes,” the IFRC warns in its 2020 World Disasters Report.
The report also reveals that the average number of climate- and weather-related crises per decade has surged nearly 35% since the 1990s, while 83% of all disasters over the last decade have been the result of extreme weather- and climate-related events like heatwaves and floods.
Such disasters have killed more than 410,000 people and affected 1.7 billion people in the last 10 years, the report notes.
In addition, during the COVID-19 pandemic alone, there have been more than 100 disasters that have impacted more than 50 million people. Many of those events were climate-related.
The World Disasters Report also states that the stimulus packages being developed across the globe in response to the pandemic should be used to make communities safer from and more resilient to the effects of global warming.
“It is also critical to use available resources well – headlines about millions and billions of dollars should not distract us from ensuring that what is allocated is best spent for those people who need it most. At present, the available funding for climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction does not seem to consistently prioritize the countries at highest risk and with the lowest ability to adapt and cope with these risks,” the report warns.
In a virtual news conference this week, IFRC Secretary-General Jagan Chapagain also warned that the COVID-19 pandemic should not distract the world from the dangers of climate change.
“Of course, the COVID is there, it’s in front of us, it is affecting our families, our friends, our relatives,” Chapagain told Al Jazeera.
“It’s a very, very serious crisis the world is facing currently," Chapagain said of the pandemic, but he also noted that “climate change will have a more significant medium- and long-term impact on the human life and on Earth.”
Several major, weather-related catastrophes have plagued the US this year, from a deadly wildfire season on the West Coast that burned more than 4 million acres across California to one of the most extreme Atlantic hurricane seasons in more than five decades.