The graph above shows global weather disasters as a proportion of global GDP. It does not include earthquakes, tsunamis or other non-weather/climate related events. I am sometimes asked: why focus on a metric of global disaster losses as a proportion of global GDP?
The short answer is that this metric says something about the relative impacts of disasters in the broad context of the global economy. Economists and policy analysts routinely use GDP as a denominator to understand the economy-wide significance of variables such as government spending, health care costs, R&D spending, etc.
If disaster losses are growing as a proportion of GDP it would mean that the world is losses are increasing as a proportion of global economic activity, surely a bad sign. Alternatively, if disaster losses are shrinking as a proportion of GDP, it would indicate that disaster losses are less significant in context of global economic activity, surely a positive sign.
It is this logic which underpins the inclusion of disaster losses as a proportion of GDP as an indicator of the UN Sustainable Development Goals and targets of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
Disasters as proportion of GDP appear under:
- Goal 1: End poverty in all its forms everywhere
- Goal 11. Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable
The overarching goal is to “substantially decrease the direct economic losses relative to global gross domestic product caused by disasters.” This is why we look at global disasters as a proportion of global GDP. It is not the only important indicator, but it is one.
Of course, if you want to understand how changes in climate may be reflected in the trends in the intensity or frequency of extreme weather, don’t look at economic data. Look at weather and climate data directly.