Extreme weather has killed at least 15,000 people in Africa this year
Extreme weather has killed at least 15,000 people in Africa so far in 2023, new analysis by Carbon Brief shows.
Global warming combined with El Niño, a warm-weather pattern that is devastating crops globally, could further threaten swaths of the continent where food insecurity is rampant.
The death toll in Africa is dominated by the 11,300 who died in September’s devastating floods in Libya, but floods also hit 22 other countries in the region, killing a further 3,000 in Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Many millions more have been affected by drought, wildfires, and heat waves, Carbon Brief reported. Climate change has increased the likelihood of extreme weather events. The true toll is undoubtedly higher: Africa has the lowest density of climate-monitoring stations of any continent, meaning weather extremes often go unreported.
As the frequency and severity of extreme weather events increases, the overstretched economies of developing nations could be saddled with billions of dollars in infrastructure repair costs, aggravating wealth inequality and displacing millions. The 12,000 extreme weather events recorded globally between 1970 and 2021 caused $4 trillion in damages, with developing nations at the receiving end of most of that: According to the World Meteorological Organization, nine in 10 deaths and 60% of economic losses related to these events occurred in developing countries. “The most vulnerable communities unfortunately bear the brunt of weather, climate and water-related hazards,” the WMO head said.
Despite decades-long advances in forecasting technologies, storms remain dangerously unpredictable, Science reported, a point which was made evident this week as Hurricane Otis struck Mexico’s Pacific coast. The region was caught in a “nightmare scenario,” the U.S. National Hurricane Center said, as a forecast tropical storm strengthened at an extraordinarily fast rate to a Category Five hurricane which slammed the coast with winds of 165 mph. Authorities’ lack of preparedness and a general information vacuum in the popular resort town of Acapulco — which has a population of almost one million — led to widespread devastation and at least 27 deaths.
Record-breaking heat waves in regions unaccustomed to high temperatures have also sent death rates spiraling, pressuring authorities to set new infrastructure-development guidelines. Researchers at Oxford University found that buildings across the U.K. — most of which are designed for insulation rather than ventilation — need to be renovated to protect people from increasingly-frequent extreme heat waves, with buildings in large cities proving a particular risk. More than 4,500 deaths linked to heat were recorded in the U.K. last year alone. “Climate change isn’t just something that is happening in the Antarctic or in very hot countries, it is impacting lives, and taking lives, here in the UK,” an NGO worker in London told the BBC.