Environmental degradation is a significant factor in reducing the adaptive capacity of societies to deal with disaster risk in many countries around the globe. The balance sheet for the past decade (2002–2011) is alarming: 4,130 disasters, over one million dead and economic losses of at least US$1.19 trillion.
This was the warning of the 2nd edition of the WorldRiskReport, launched in Brussels earlier this week by the United Nations University Institute for Environment and Human Security (UNU‐EHS), Alliance Development Works/Bündnis Entwicklung Hilft (ADW) and The Nature Conservancy (TNC). ADW is the publisher of the report.
The centerpiece of the report is the WorldRiskIndex, developed by UNU‐EHS in cooperation with ADW, which quantifies the risk of becoming the victim of a disaster as a result of natural hazards for 173 countries throughout the world. According to presently available data, the Pacific Island state of Vanuatu has the highest disaster risk, while Malta and Qatar face the lowest risk worldwide. Additionally, the 2012 report highlights the aspect of environmental degradation and disasters.
The risk calculated by the index is determined by the extent to which communities are exposed to natural hazards such as droughts, storms or earthquakes, and their degree of vulnerability to such hazards. The latter factor is dependent on social factors such as the public infrastructure, medical services, the prevailing nutritional situation, governance, the level of education, the availability of insurance to deal with economic losses, as well as the condition of the environment.
“The WorldRiskIndex reveals global hotspots for disaster risk in Oceania, Southeast Asia, the southern Sahel and especially in Central America and the Caribbean. In these places, a very high threat of natural disasters and climate change meets very vulnerable communities”, explained UNU-EHS Director Jakob Rhyner.
“The new WorldRiskReport gives us a vivid picture of how environmental destruction on a global scale is increasingly becoming a direct threat to human beings as well. Where slopes have been deforested, where protective reefs, mangroves and wetlands have degenerated or even completely disappeared, the forces of nature impact with far higher force on inhabited areas”, said Peter Mucke, Director of Alliance Development Works.
“The reciprocal relationship between environmental degradation and disaster risk has not been given enough attention by governments up until now”, he emphasized.
For more information, see WorldRiskReport 2012: Environmental degradation increases disaster risk worldwide on the UNU-EHS website.