GCA Chief: We Are ‘Utterly Unprepared’ for the Climate Emergency

Patrick Verkooijen, CEO of the Global Center on Adaptation, speaks during the launch of a report on climate adaptation in Beijing on September 10, 2019. - Nations rich and poor must invest now to protect against the impact of climate change -- or pay an even heavier price later, a …
GREG BAKER/AFP via Getty Images

The CEO of the Global Center for Adaptation (GCA) contends that “climate disasters have doubled” during the last 20 years, CNBC reported Wednesday.

Patrick Verkooijen, who runs the GCA, which describes itself as a “solutions broker to accelerate, innovate and scale adaptation action for a climate-resilient world,” told CNBC the coronavirus pandemic had been a “wake-up call” for the world.

“We are utterly unprepared for the next crisis, the climate emergency,” Verkooijen said, adding that “90% of all natural disasters are water related, more floods, more droughts, more storms, more fires.”

“In the last two decades, these climate disasters have doubled,” he stated. “Half a million people lost their lives and over 2 trillion in economic losses.”

“In 2017, three storms cost the United States economy $265 billion,” he added. “Last year in 2020, one storm, over $55 billion in economic losses.”

Verkooijen praised the work and perspective of U.S. climate czar John Kerry, who has insisted on preemptive changes to forestall the worst effects of climate change.

“I think John Kerry said it very well, we have now crossed the point that investing in prevention is much more effective than cleaning up afterwards,” he said. “That’s why investing in water and climate adaptation is the way to go.”

As tragic as storm-induced property damage is, however, it is disingenuous to blame this damage on global warming. Severe weather events are not the same thing as climate change.

As physicist Steven Koonin shows in his bestselling book Unsettled: What Climate Science Tells Us, What It Doesn’t, and Why It Matters, heat waves are not more common today than they were in 1900, tornados are not trending up, nor are droughts, hurricanes, or flooding.

Moreover, annual deaths from extreme-weather events have plummeted in the last 100 years to a mere fraction of their previous numbers.

In the year 1900, 1.27 million people died from extreme-weather events, whereas in the last decade, the average deaths globally from such events was 60,000, despite the fact that the world’s population has increased fivefold, from 1.6 billion in 1900 to 7.8 billion in 2020.

Put in other terms, if we look at the number of deaths from extreme weather events from the 1920s to the present day, we find that both deaths and death rates have declined exponentially.

Specifically, the annual number of deaths declined from 484,900 to 35,700, a 92.6 percent decline in absolute terms, while the death rate per million dropped from 241.5 to 5.4, a decrease of a striking 97.8 percent.

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