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Data Shows Drop In Natural Disaster-Related Deaths, Growing Economic Losses; Sen. Murkowski Moves To Halt EPA Greenhouse Gas Regulation

New data from the WHO and the Belgian Centre for Research on Epidemiology of Disasters Deaths and released at the U.N. climate conference show the number of people dying in climate-related disasters has decreased, and that economic losses from natural disasters are growing, Reuters AlertNet reports.

“Of 245 disasters in 2009, 224 were weather-related, and those weather disasters accounted for 55 million of the 58 million people affected by disaster around the globe,” according to the new figures, the news service reports. “About 7,000 people died from weather-related disasters in 2009, a 10-year low, the figures showed. But climate-related disasters accounted for 84 percent of economic losses from disasters, or about $15 billion. That is likely to continue to grow as climate change brings more severe storms around the world, particularly in coastal regions where half the world’s population lives, said Margareta Wahlstrom, the UN’s disaster risk reduction chief.”

Wahlstrom also highlighted drought, which she called “the most complicated disaster to capture in statistics,” mostly because it develops over time often kills people through malnutrition and overall health degradation. “From 1970 to 2008, drought accounted for less than 20 percent of disasters reported in Africa, but it produced 80 percent of disaster victims, she said.” The article also looks at the factors that create natural disasters. It includes quotes from Michel Jarraud, secretary-general of the World Meteorological Organisation (Goering, 12/15).

In related news, Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) is trying “to halt the Environmental Protection Agency’s [EPA] movement toward regulating the emission of greenhouse gases” after the agency recently said greenhouse gases harm public health, McClatchy/Miami Herald reports. “It could be years before any EPA regulations take effect, and the White House has said it would prefer that Congress write the guidelines. But if Congress doesn’t act, the EPA’s rules could set the standard for greenhouse gas emissions on the part of large emitters such as power plants, factories and other stationary sources of pollution,” the news service writes. 

Murkowski, the top Republican on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, expressed her concerns on Monday “about an executive branch agency writing such regulations rather than Congress. She announced her intention to file a ‘disapproval resolution,’ a rare move that prohibits rules written by executive branch agencies from taking effect.” She said, “This finding is supposedly rooted in concerns about the public health and public welfare … But what it really endangers are jobs, economic recovery and American competitiveness” (12/15).