Billions of people around the world are now exposed to devastating natural disasters, including floods, earthquakes, tsunamis, and volcanic eruptions, according to a new study.
In the last few decades, the risk has dramatically increased; the number of people living in seismic areas, for example, has increased by 93 percent in just 40 years.
The findings, compiled in the Atlas of the Human Planet 2017, reveal the global exposure to natural disasters has doubled since 1975, largely as a result of population growth and development.
In the analysis, the researchers accounted for six major natural hazards: earthquakes, volcanoes, tsunamis, tropical cyclone storm surge, tropical cyclone wind, and floods. They used satellite observation data over 40 years to measure for ‘exposure,’ or ‘the people and assets at risk of potential losses or that may suffer damage to a hazard impact.’ ‘It covers several dimensions like the physical, the social, and the economic dimensions,’ the authors wrote.
Earthquakes were found to be the largest hazard, with the number of people potentially affected jumping from 1.4 billion in 1975 to 2.7 billion in 2015. Now, they say one in three people is exposed to the risk of earthquakes. And, the researchers also found more than 400 people now live near one of the 220 most dangerous volcanoes in the world.
When it comes to tsunamis, the researchers say regions in Asia are the worst exposed. Japan has the most built-up surface at risk of a tsunami, followed by China and the US, they say.
Floods are another major risk, and are the most frequent natural disaster, according to the researchers. According to the study, most people at risk of floods live in Asia.
On a continent-wide basis, the researchers found that 76.9 percent of the global exposed population exists in Asia, followed by 12 percent in Africa. Around the world, about 1 billion people – across 155 countries – were found to be exposed to the flood risk in 2015. While many similar studies have focused on climate change, the researchers note that their approach shows the connection between exposure to natural disasters and population growth, urbanization, and socioeconomic development.
These factors are driving a shift that could put more people at risk – and, some more than others. ‘According to this analysis, the global exposure of population and built-up surface to natural hazards increased in the last 40 years,’ the authors wrote. ‘Some hazards, due to their nature and characteristics, pose a threat to a large number of people in different regions of the world.’ Daily Mail