Action to reduce disaster risk

06 December 2012

Global environmental change and demographic shifts are the factors most likely to cause "major challenges" for world leaders, says a major new report from an expert panel chaired by Prof Angela McLean from the Oxford Martin School.

According to the final report of the Foresight project, Reducing Risks of Future Disasters: Priorities for Decision Makers, “there are more people at risk than ever from natural hazards, particularly in developing countries, and this number will continue to rise over the next 30 years.”

UK Chief Scientific Adviser and Head of the Government Office for Science, Sir John Beddington commented, “Disasters arising from tsunamis, earthquakes and epidemics, as well as extreme weather events, seem to be often in the news. Clearly, the emergency response of aid organisations and governments is vital in such circumstances. However, it is important to ask whether more could be done to anticipate such events, to limit their impact, and to enable the affected populations to recover more quickly through better resilience.”

The expert committee who contributed to the report included as chair, Professor Angela McLean, Director of the Institute for Emerging Infections and as expert contributor, Professor Tim Palmer, Co-Director, Programme on Modelling and Predicting Climate, both at the Oxford Martin School. Their aim was to provide advice to decision makers on the choices and priorities in disaster risk reduction so that the diverse impacts of future disasters can be effectively reduced.

The report recommends better co-ordination between communities of experts on data issues, hazard forecasting, modelling and evaluation, with increased cooperation and pooling of resources. It also highlighted the need to inform decision makers whether a given system is likely to be resilient to a particular future shock with an important aim being to build up a comprehensive picture of locations where resilience is lowest

The report concludes: “The overall picture is one of increasing challenges ahead. However, this Report has shown that disaster and death are not the inevitable consequences. It is possible to stabilise disaster impacts and save both lives and livelihoods given political leadership and concerted action by the wide range of stakeholders who have a part to play.”