natural disasters
It’s widely accepted by scientists today that natural disasters are on the rise and there’s increased risk for everyone. It’s more likely that people are going to experience a natural disaster in their lifetime.

One reason for this is that there are simply more people and many are concentrated in areas that are prone to disaster. The proportion of people living in cities of developing countries has doubled since 1960. This is important because 13 of the world’s 19 largest cities are located in coastal regions that are naturally at risk for disaster. This proportion is expected to rise 55 percent, too, by the year 2030.

It’s important to note also that developing countries, harboring the greatest populations in the world, experienced 94 percent of the world’s natural disasters between 1990 and 1998.

On the other hand, there are more natural disasters today than there used to be. The earth’s southern hemisphere is most likely to bear the brunt of climate change, a fairly well-known driver of the planet’s increase in the frequency of natural disasters. Since 1950, there have been more droughts, hurricanes, floods and windstorms than there used to be. And most developing countries can be found in the global south.

But regardless of what’s causing these disasters to tear cities and lives apart, the experiences are costly. Since the 1960s, the costs of natural disasters have increased sevenfold and low-income economies are at the greatest risk. Here, the poor stand to suffer the most. Consequently, natural disasters are quickly rising as a major issue in efforts at global poverty reduction.

Recall the recent typhoon Rammasun in the Philippines, which flooded streets in Quezon City, killed thirty-eight and left eight missing. It came on the heels of the devastating Typhoon Haiyan which killed more than 5,000. These storms left the already-poor coconut farmers of the nation in devastation after having lost their livelihoods in the storm. Poor fishers, whose boats were destroyed, were threatened with relocation away from coasts, as well.

In southern Karnataka in India, coffee growers fear for their yield as the yearly monsoon rains have delivered 14 percent more water than normal.

But there is hope. Despite the increasingly costly nature of natural disasters, data shows that this year represents a leveling-out in disaster costs, which have generally been on the increase over the past ten years. The first six months of 2014 have had costs nearly 50 percent lower than the $95 billion average.

As climate change moves across the globe as an unstoppable force behind disaster and people concentrate in vulnerable regions, we can only hope that losses continue to fall with increased responsiveness and preparation.

Rachel Davis

Sources: IMF, CBC, The Hindu, Actuarial Post
Photo: The Stress Surfer