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World Is “Ill-Prepared” For Risky Climate-Fueled Future, Says World Bank

The World Bank has published a new report warning that the world is “ill-prepared” for an increase in climate change-spawned disasters, rising populations, and increasing vulnerability.

In its new report, The Making of a Riskier Future: How Our Decisions are Shaping the Future of Disaster Risk, the World Bank calls for what it is calling “a radical new approach to assessing risk, which takes into account extremely rapid changes in global disaster risk.” The authors of the report conclude that most of today’s disaster risk assessment “is static, focusing only on understanding current risks. A paradigm shift is needed toward dynamic risk assessments, which reveal the drivers of risk and the effectiveness of policies focused on reduced risk.”

“With climate change and rising numbers of people in urban areas rapidly driving up future risks, there’s a real danger the world is woefully unprepared for what lies ahead,” said John Roome, the World Bank Group’s Senior Director for Climate Change. “Unless we change our approach to future planning for cities and coastal areas that takes into account potential disasters, we run the real risk of locking in decisions that will lead to drastic increases in future losses.”

According to the World Bank, annual total damages from disasters have been steadily increasing for decades, with models showing that population growth and rapid urbanization could see 1.3 billion people, and $158 trillion in assets, at risk from river and coastal floods by 2050. Annual total damage has increased tenfold between 1976-1985 and 2005-2014, from $14 billion to more than $140 billion. Average population affected each year by disasters has risen from around 60 million people in 1976-1985 to over 170 million people.

The report analyzes literature and case studies from around the globe, and shows that densely populated coastal cities are sinking, and when coupled with rising sea levels, annual losses in 136 coastal cities could increase from $6 billion to $1,000 billion in 2070. The report also highlights research which warns river flood risk in Indonesia may increase 166% over the next 30 years due to rapid expansion in urban areas, while the country’s coastal flood risk could rise by a phenomenal 445%.

Earthquake risk in Kathmandu is expected to double to 50% by 2045 due to informal building expansion. The report also highlights research which shows social vulnerability is being hit by climate change, and could push 100 million people back into poverty by 2030.

To help begin to mitigate what the World Bank believes is the heart of the issue, reliable and accessible risk information, the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR) and the World Bank are also releasing ThinkHazard!a first of its kind open-source platform which will provide hazard information and recommendations of how to reduce risk across eight hazards including earthquakes, floods, tsunamis, and cyclones, for 196 countries.

“By promoting policies that reduce risk and avoiding actions to drive up risk, we can positively influence the risk environment of the future,” added Francis Ghesquiere, Head, GFDRR Secretariat “The drivers of future risk are within the control of decision makers today. They must seize the moment.”

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