The United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (UNISDR) has revealed that global reported economic losses from natural disasters climbed by 251% in the period between 1998 and 2017, compared to the previous 20-year period.
The agency said that valuable assets are increasingly found in disaster-prone areas, leading to almost US$2.9 trillion in economic losses due to earthquakes, volcanic activity, floods, windstorms, and other climate-related disasters, the Associated Press reported.
The US is the country that was affected by the most losses in the past 20 years, with over US$944 billion. This figure is almost twice that of China, which is in second place. Japan, India, and Puerto Rico round out the top five.
UNISDR did highlight a caveat – that the figures rely on official reports, so more economically developed countries are more likely to be overrepresented. This is compounded by the fact that insurance is less widespread in developing countries, especially in the earlier years of the time period.
This mans that the tally, which relies only on confirmed documentation, captures only a fraction of the losses inflicted by natural disasters.