Confronting worldwide disaster losses

Nov 05, 2007

In the current edition of leading journal Science, an international team of experts argues that governments and policymakers worldwide need to take swift action now to minimise mounting losses due to future natural disasters - regardless of the effect of climate change on our global weather patterns.

Australian Ryan Crompton of Risk Frontiers, a natural hazards research centre at Macquarie University, worked with colleagues from the Netherlands, Germany and the US on the paper, which offers three recommendations to decision makers: improve disaster data collection; expand the role of disaster risk reduction in adaptation; and develop and apply innovative finance mechanisms to protect against losses.

"According to data collected by Munich Re, global inflation adjusted economic costs of weather-related disasters have increased from an annual average of US$8.9 billion between 1977 and 1986, to US$45.1 billion between 1997 and 2006," Crompton says. "Even if extreme weather doesn't increase - and the IPCC says it likely will - in coming decades we will see losses skyrocketing due to societal change and economic development.

"As an example, if the July 2005 floods in Mumbai were repeated in 2015, they could cause 80 per cent higher losses and affect 20 per cent more people, independent of climate change."

The research team argues that although greenhouse gas emission reductions are of central importance, they cannot decrease hazard risk for decades, and so must be complemented by other policy changes if staggering losses are to be avoided.

"One of the pressing needs is for better data collection," Crompton says. "An open-source, peer-reviewed database would enable the scientific community to study worldwide disasters - and potentially even offer the prospect of an early-warning system for changes in the earth-climate system.

"The role of disaster risk reduction could also be expanded, particularly in the developing world," he says. "Finally, some innovative insurance products have been developed and expanded recently, such as catastrophe bonds which cover flood risk in the UK, and there is a real need for more of this as risk becomes increasingly more concentrated."

Source: Macquarie University

Explore further: When it comes to how pizza looks, cheese matters

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Oso disaster had its roots in earlier landslides

Jul 23, 2014

The disastrous March 22 landslide that killed 43 people in the rural Washington state community of Oso involved the "remobilization" of a 2006 landslide on the same hillside, a new federally sponsored geological study concludes.

The five biggest threats to human existence

May 29, 2014

In the daily hubbub of current "crises" facing humanity, we forget about the many generations we hope are yet to come. Not those who will live 200 years from now, but 1,000 or 10,000 years from now. I use ...

Researchers study costs of 'dirty bomb' attack in L.A.

Apr 23, 2012

A dirty bomb attack centered on downtown Los Angeles' financial district could severely impact the region's economy to the tune of nearly $16 billion, fueled primarily by psychological effects that could persist for a decade.

Nepal glaciers shrink by quarter in 30 years

May 23, 2014

Climate change has caused Nepal's Himalayan glaciers to shrink by nearly a quarter in just over 30 years, raising the risk of natural disasters in the ecologically fragile region, a scientist said Friday.

Recommended for you

When it comes to how pizza looks, cheese matters

Aug 21, 2014

Most consumers have an idea what they want their pizza slice to look like. Golden cheese with that dark toasted-cheese color scattered in distinct blistery patches across the surface with a bit of oil glistening in the valleys. ...

Freedom and responsibility of science

Aug 21, 2014

Yesterday, the German Research Foundation (DFG) and the Leopoldina National Academy of Sciences presented their recommendations for "The Freedom and Responsibility of Science" in Berlin. Both research organizations appeal ...

What I learned from debating science with trolls

Aug 20, 2014

I often like to discuss science online and I'm also rather partial to topics that promote lively discussion, such as climate change, crime statistics and (perhaps surprisingly) the big bang. This inevitably ...

Activists urge EU to scrap science advisor job

Aug 19, 2014

Nine major charities urged the European Commission on Tuesday to scrap a science advisor position it says puts too much power over sensitive policy into the hands of one person.

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

DoctorKnowledge
not rated yet Jul 02, 2008
One can see either side of this argument easily enough. And that's not comforting.

If, for example (I said if), it is a choice between widespread food riots in major cities, and destroying an additional 100 sq miles of the Amazon each year, what would the right choice be?

These people are arguing that the consequences are so severe to our society that we have to intentionally damage the ecology, to some extent. A very unpleasant concept. But one that seems plausible.