Economic losses from natural disasters counted

Natural disasters around the globe have resulted in economic losses of roughly $7 trillion since 1900, according to a new calculation from scientists.

Their database, which contains some 35,000 events, reveals the catastrophes have also resulted in more than eight million deaths.

The analysis should assist governments with crisis planning and response, the researchers say.

Their results were presented at the European Geosciences Union meeting.

$7tn is equivalent to about £5tn or €6tn.

The team, led from the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology in Germany, scoured the media and old records for all the information it could find on floods, droughts, storms, volcanoes, earthquakes, and wildfires.

Reports in more than 90 different languages were assessed for the group’s Integrated Historical Global Catastrophe Database.

Over the 1900-2015 period, roughly 40% of economic losses are ascribed to flooding. Earthquakes accounted for about a quarter; storms for about a fifth; 12% was due to drought; 2% to wildfire, and under 1% to volcanic eruptions.

But although the economic losses in absolute terms have increased during the past century, these losses actually now represent a smaller fraction of the total value globally of buildings and other infrastructure.

It means, say the scientists, that in many instances, we are now doing better at mitigating the consequences of natural disasters.

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