“Global Risks: Pool Knowledge to Stem Losses from Disasters”

From Nature.com, an article by Susan Cutter et al: Global risks: Pool knowledge to stem losses from disasters.  Public awareness, rigorous risk research and aligned targets will help policy-makers to increase resilience against natural hazards, say Susan L. Cutter and colleagues.

Interesting article that is well-worth reading.

New UN Report: Global Assessment on Disaster Risk Reduction, 2015

Press Release and full report titled Global Assessment Report on Disaster Risk Reduction 2015. The full report is 316 pages, but there is a “pocket version” that is 28 pages. Some details from the press release:

The fourth edition of the United Nations Global Assessment Report on Disaster Risk Reduction (GAR) is a resource for understanding and analyzing global disaster risk today and in the future. The report explores the large potential losses from disasters currently face by many countries – especially those which can least afford to invest in future resilience and the cost and benefits of disaster risk management (DRM). It emphasizes as well the close link between disaster risk and sustainable development and explores prospective, corrective and compensatory risk management approaches as a way to integrate it in development activities, in order to avoid risk generation and accumulation. The report aims to promote the integration of Disaster Risk Management into development by raising the awareness that managing risks cost less than managing disasters.

The GAR series has compiled and analyzed data and information on disaster risk patterns and trends, government self-assessment of progress, and critical challenges to disaster risk reduction since 2009. GAR09, provided evidence that disaster risk is disproportionately concentrated in lower-income countries with weak governance


New Exec. Order on Flood Risk Management

See this White House Press Release re the new E.O.:  Establishing a Federal Flood Risk Management Standard and a Process for Further Soliciting and Considering Stakeholder Input.

Update on Jan. 31: When a press release comes out on a Friday afternoon, it takes a while before people can figure out the significance of the new action. The Washington Post issued this news article: In major shift, Obama administration will plan for rising seas in all federal projects.

Comments and analyses from readers are invited.

2021 Update: The standard was revoked by the Trump administration. See this op-ed piece for further info. Flood Protection Standard Needed.


Disaster Threats and Risks on the Rise

From the Miami Herald: As natural disaster threats around the world increase, so do risks to businesses’ customers, supplies

 Richard S. Olson, director of the Extreme Events Institute at Florida International University, said companies have a growing incentive to reduce the risk of disaster damage to suppliers and customers because the insurance and reinsurance industries increasingly account for such risk in pricing their coverage.

Natural disaster risk is starting to command more attention because it is increasing worldwide. “The private sector’s awareness has spiked because of the vulnerabilities they’ve seen in their supply and production chains, and because the insurance and reinsurance industries are paying more attention to track recurrences of hurricanes, cyclones and typhoons,” Olson said. “There’s much more attention being paid by risk modelers to natural disasters.”

Building in Risky Areas

Time and time again we see risky areas that have buildings on them that are later deemed questionable. Why does that happen?  See this article in the NYT: No Easy Way to Restrict Construction in Risky Areas. From the intro:

After disasters like the Oso landslide in Washington State, a common question is why people are allowed to live in such dangerous places. On the website of Scientific American, for example, the blogger Dana Hunter wrote, “It infuriates me when officials know an area is unsafe, and allow people to build there anyway.”

But things are rarely simple when government power meets property rights. The government has broad authority to regulate safety in decisions about where and how to build, but it can count on trouble when it tries to restrict the right to build. “Often, it ends up in court,” said Lynn Highland, a geographer with the United States Geological Survey’s landslide program in Golden, Colo.

I got this citation from a posting on the topic by Phil Palin in the blog Homeland Security Watch.

New “Risky Business” Endeavor

In the NYTimes this morning, I read this op ed piece: We need climate-change risk assessment; Americans need to know how to assess the risk posed by global warming.

The direct URL for the new non-prifit organization is here: www.riskybusiness.org

I have been wondering what Mayor Bloomberg planned to do when he stepped down from his 3rd stint as mayor of NY.  Now we know.

Excellent New Article – in Environment Magazine

Since Michelin ranks restaurants with stars, the Diva has decided to award stars to documents re recovery. Here is the first one I would give 4 stars to:

Making America More Resilience toward Natural Disasters: A Call For Action, by Howard Kunreuther, Erwann Michel-Kerjan and Mark Pauly. From Environment Magazine, July/August 2013.  The title does not really do justice to the wide array of useful content here, so I suggest you download the full article and decide for yourself how you would categorize it.

Some excerpts:

Hurricane Sandy caused an estimated $65 billion in economic losses to residences, business owners, and infrastructure owners. It is the second most costly natural disaster in recent years in the United States, after Hurricane Katrina in 2005, but it is not an outlier; economic and insured losses from devastating natural catastrophes in the United States and worldwide are climbing.

According to Munich Re,2 real-dollar economic losses from natural catastrophes alone have increased from $528 billion (1981–1990), to $1,197 billion (1991–2000), to $1,23 billion (2001–2010). During the past 10 years, the losses were principally due to hurricanes and resulting storm surge occurring in 2004, 2005, and 2008. Figure 1 depicts the evolution of the direct economic losses and the insured portion from great natural disasters over the period 1980–2012.2

There is a wealth of useful information in this article, which makes it hard to summarize. It is thoughtful and clearly writtten. I consider this an essential document, one that I think will be a classic in time.

New Risk Report from the UK

A new, very worthwhile, report  on Risk Assessment from the Government Office of Science (UK) Jan. 5th: Reducing Risks of Future Disasters: Priorities for Decision Makers. From the foreword:

“Science tells us why disasters happen and where many of the risks lie, and for some disasters we can even forecast when they will occur. The aim of this Report has therefore been to review the latest science and evidence, and to take stock of the further improvements that lie ahead. In so doing, it sets out priorities and options for how DRR [disaster risk reduction] can be substantially improved today and into the future.

The key message is that disaster and death are not the inevitable consequence of greater exposure to hazards. It is possible to stabilise disaster impacts, save lives and protect livelihoods. However, achieving this will require a change in culture and a new approach. Everyone with a stake in developing countries needs to play their part in reducing risk. For example, this Report argues that policy makers far beyond the traditional boundaries of development and disaster response need to recognise that they also have a key part to play in DRR, as does the private sector.”

Some past postings on this blog also deal with risk assessment. To find them  use the search function at bottom right of homepage to locate them. For example, see these risk communications docs from Univ. of MD.

And it would be great if there were a U.S. version of this report!