The World Resources Institute’s EarthTrends weblog points to some data on trends in natural and manmade disasters.
Although natural and manmade disasters occur in all countries regardless of income or size, not all governments have the resources necessary for prevention and emergency response. For those regions already battling widespread poverty, disease, and malnutrition, disasters are a significant constraint on social and economic development. Understanding the trends that describe disasters through time and space is very important, particularly in light of climate change, which threatens to alter both the distribution and severity of disasters worldwide.
With growing population and infrastructures the world’s exposure to natural hazards is inevitably increasing. This is particularly true as the strongest population growth is located in coastal areas (with greater exposure to floods, cyclones and tidal waves). To make matters worse any land remaining available for urban growth is generally risk-prone, for instance flood plains or steep slopes subject to landslides. The statistics in the graph opposite reveal an exponential increase in disasters. This raises several questions. Is the increase due to a significant improvement in access to information? What part does population growth and infrastructure development play? Finally, is climate change behind the increasing frequency of natural hazards?