The 21st century has seen a drastic rise in climate-related disasters, according to a new report released by the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR).

7,348 major disaster events have been recorded globally over the past twenty years - a sharp increase, compared to 4,212 disasters between 1980-1999. Since 2000, natural disasters have affected over 4 billion people globally, claiming around 1.23 million lives with damage equal to US$ 2.97 trillion in economic losses.

The proportion of climate-related disasters has doubled to 6,681 in 2000-2019 (as compared to 3,656 in 1980-1999) and affected 3.9 billion people with 510,837 deaths (as compared to 3.2 billion affected and 995,330 dead in 1980-1999).

Many communities worldwide have been repeatedly battered by various disasters, destroying infrastructure, disrupting agriculture, and livelihoods.

Number of disasters reported per country / territory (2000-2019). Source: UNDRR

What you need to know about the disaster trends in the 21 century:

  • There were 367 disaster events on average each year;
  • Floods and storms were the most prevalent events (44% and 28% respectively);
  • The number of major floods has doubled, from 1,389 to 3,254;
  • The number of storms grew from 1,457 to 2,034.

The report concludes that the rise in global average temperatures by 1.1˚C above the preindustrial period in the 21st century has created drastic impacts around the world. The rising temperatures have triggered more frequent extreme weather events like heatwaves, droughts, wildfires, hurricanes, floods, and winter storms.


44% of all disaster events were floods, with an average of 163 floods per year. Between 2000-2019, floods affected 1.6 billion people worldwide.

Total number of deaths by disaster type (2000-2019). Source: UNDRR


There were 2,043 storms recorded between 2000 and 2019 including hurricanes, cyclones and storm surges, killing nearly 200,000 people. Storms were the second most frequent disaster type after flooding, and the deadliest climate-related disaster in the past 20 years.

Percentage of occurrences of disasters by disaster type (2000-2019). Source: UNDRR


Although drought accounted for only 5% of all disaster events over the past 20 years, such events have affected over 1.4 billion people. Droughts became the second most prominent type of disaster by the scope of impacts. Drought events have devastating impacts on people disrupting food security, accelerating hunger, poverty, agricultural failures, death of livestock, water deficit, and epidemic outbreaks, and displacement of vulnerable populations.

Extreme temperatures

Extreme temperatures have led to 13% of all disaster deaths worldwide, with heatwaves accounting for 91%, mostly in the global north, especially Europe. Climate change is expected to significantly increase the frequency, intensity, and length of heatwaves around the world.

Recorded economic losses (US$) per disaster type (2000-2019). Source: UNDRR


Over the past two decades, 26% of wildfire events with 69% of economic losses due to wildfires took place within the U.S., mostly across the state of California. Large-scale wildfires create serious health hazards to people even far away from the fire by releasing toxic pollutants that increase mortality due to smoke exposure.

The UN stresses the urgency of climate action to prevent further temperature increase, which can be up to 3.2˚C or more if the industrial nations don’t reduce greenhouse gas emissions of at least 7.2% per year over the next ten years. This can trigger more natural disasters at an unprecedented scale.

Are you at risk?

To find out whether your property is at risk from natural disasters and climate hazards, you can take the Augurisk Complete Natural Hazard Risk Assessment online. Augurisk evaluates the risks of coastal flooding, storm events, earthquakes, wildfires, and volcano activity individually for your property. Contact us for more details.