Climate change and poor risk management increase the risk of natural disasters

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The United Nations calls for better management to reduce the risks associated with the rapid increase in natural disasters largely triggered by climate change. The United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction has released its 2022 Global Assessment Report, which prescribes solutions to reduce threatened risks.

The report warns that the world is set to face more frequent and extreme disasters and that nations are ill-prepared to deal with the dangers.

It indicates that the number of natural disasters suffered in the past two decades is five times higher than in the previous three decades.

According to current trends, says Ricardo Mena, director of the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction, the world will face some 560 disasters a year.

“Disasters have forced more than a quarter of a billion people into internal displacement,” Mena said. “So that’s far more than those displaced by conflict and war each year on average between 2010 and 2020.”

Over the past decade, the cost of disasters has been around $170 billion a year. The UN report notes that the Asia-Pacific region bears the largest share of economic losses, followed by the African region.

Mena says it is the poorest countries that are most affected by disasters, forcing the most vulnerable into a spiral of destruction.

But he says this destructive spiral can be halted if governments adopt better risk reduction policies and management strategies.

“Governments will need to invest more in disaster resilience, strengthen national budgets to protect people and critical infrastructure,” Mena said. “But they will also need to step up their efforts to avoid the creation of new risks as a result of decisions on the risk line.”

Mena says the decisions people make about how they live, build and invest can create new risks. For example, he says, someone who builds a house in an earthquake-prone area without following building codes risks having their house destroyed. A municipality that builds a school in a flood zone may see the building washed away.

Making better decisions, Mena says, can lead to fewer disasters.

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