Natural disasters are increasing but the world isn’t prepared, a new report says

Flooding natural disaster in Punjab, Pakistan
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The world is not adequately prepared to face increasing natural disasters, said a report published on 28 February. It called for a rethink on global risk management.

In 2015, the international community adopted global goals to lower casualties and damage by the year 2030. In a declaration known as the Sendai Framework, it was meant to invest in risk evaluation and reduction, as well as disaster preparedness. However, the International Science Council (ISC) report said it is:

highly unlikely we will meet the Sendai Framework goals by 2030 given current trends.

The ISC is a coalition of dozens of scientific organisations.

Too much disaster response, not enough preparedness

More than 10,700 disasters have affected over six billion people worldwide since 1990. This is according to data from the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction. Floods and storms, which climate breakdown has exacerbated, top the list of disasters. They account for 42% of the total.

The cascading disasters are “setting back hard-won development gains in many parts of the world”, the report says. Meanwhile, ISC president Peter Gluckman said:

Far too little attention and investment is put to long-term planning and prevention, from strengthening building codes to adopting hazard alert systems.

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He added that this lack of preparedness comes even as the international community is quick to mobilize after disasters like the recent earthquake in Turkey and Syria.

Mami Mizutori, UN special representative for disaster risk reduction, said:

the multiple challenges of the last three years have laid bare the fundamental need for greater global readiness for the next disaster.

We need to reinforce our infrastructure, communities, and ecosystems now, rather than rebuild them in the aftermath.

Failing to acknowledge systemic factors

The report additionally drew attention to resource allocation issues. For example, international funding dedicated only 5.2% of response aid for developing countries between 2011 and 2022 to risk reduction. It allocated the rest to relief and post-disaster reconstruction.

It criticised this approach as a:

‘business as usual’ mindset which fails to acknowledge the need for systemic change.

In one concrete solution, the ISC called for the widespread deployment of early warning systems. It noted that 24 hours’ notice of a storm could reduce damage by 30%. However, at a systemic level, it called for the empowerment of local decision-making on reducing risk drivers, and for us to:

Develop community-led nature-based solutions to enhance the protection of natural buffers that reduce risks and achieve co-benefits for sustainability.

A report released in late January by the UN General Assembly also noted that countries were not on track to meet goals under the Sendai framework.

Today, the number of people affected by disasters each year is increasing. At the same time, so is the cost of direct damage, which reached an average of $330bn per year from 2015 to 2021.

Featured image via United Nations Photo/Flickr

Additional reporting by Agence France-Pressse

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