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World heading for catastrophe over natural disasters, risk expert warns (Most in the Asia Pacific Region)

Last year, earthquakes, floods, heatwaves and landslides left 22,773 people dead, affected 98.6 million others and caused $66.5bn (£47bn) of economic damage. Yet the international community spends less than half of one per cent of the global aid budget on mitigating the risks posed by such hazards.

Robert Glasser, the special representative of the secretary general for disaster risk reduction, said that with the world already “falling short” in its response to humanitarian emergencies, things would only get worse as climate change adds to the pressure. He said: “If you see that we’re already spending huge amounts of money and are unable to meet the humanitarian need – and then you overlay that with not just population growth … but you put climate change on top of that, where we’re seeing an increase in the frequency and severity of natural disasters, and the knock-on effects with respect to food security and conflict and new viruses like the Zika virus or whatever – you realise that the only way we’re going to be able to deal with these trends is by getting out ahead of them and focusing on reducing disaster risk.”

Failure to plan properly by factoring in the effects of climate change, he added, would result in a steep rise in the vulnerability of those people already most exposed to natural hazards. He also predicted a rise in the number of simultaneous disasters.

“As the odds of any one event go up, the odds of two happening at the same time are more likely. We’ll see many more examples of cascading crises, where one event triggers another event, which triggers another event.”

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Asia Pacific Fire, Editor