Oxfam, an international aid agency, has tallied a fourfold increase in natural disasters in just the last two decades an increase it ascribes to unpredictable violent weather spawned by global warming.
"Natural disasters have quadrupled over the last two decades, from an average of 120 a year in the early 1980s to as many as 500 today," which is "in line with climate models developed by the international scientific community," the group says in its new report, "Climate Alarm."
The number of people affected by all disasters has risen from an average of 174 million a year between 1985 and 1994 to 254 million a year between 1995 and 2004. Earlier this year the Asian floods alone affected 248 million people. Oxfam is among the agencies responding to the devastation in Bangladesh, where 11 days ago Cyclone Sidr struck with Category 4 strength, killing at least 3,400 and affecting millions.
Other figures from the Oxfam report: Floods and wind storms have increased sixfold since 1980, from 60 in 1980 to 240 in 2006.
"This year we have seen floods in South Asia, across the breadth of Africa and in Mexico that have affected more than 250 million people. This is no freak year. It follows a pattern of more frequent, more erratic, more unpredictable and more extreme weather events that are affecting more people," said Jeremy Hobbs, Oxfam International Executive Director. "Action is needed now to prepare for more disasters, otherwise humanitarian assistance will be overwhelmed and recent advances in human development will go into reverse."
The frequency of small and medium-sized natural disasters appears to be increasing, and taking an increasing toll, the group said. Whereas 6,000 died from disasters classified this way in the 1980s, the figure reached 14,000 in 2005.
The group called on rich governments to make weather-related disaster relief a priority to ensure fair, fast and flexible aid and preparation.
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