A new joint report from the World Bank and the United Nations says that annual global losses from natural disasters could triple to $185 billion by the end of this century, even without calculating the impact of climate change. Climate change could then add $28-$68 billion more in damages each year from tropical cyclones alone. The report also says that the number of people exposed to storms and earthquakes in large cities could double to 1.5 billion by 2050.
The 250-page report, Natural Hazards, UnNatural Disasters: The Economics of Effective Prevention, was released in Washington. Targeted directly at the world's finance ministers, it stresses that “prevention pays but you do not always have to pay more for prevention”.
The report outlines a number of measures to prevent death and destruction from natural hazards such as earthquakes, hurricanes, and flooding. These measures are almost stunning in their simplicity and common-sense approach. For example, governments can make information about hazards and risks easily accessible. Providing land titles reduces the possibility of eviction or demolition, and encourages individuals to invest in safer structures. Removing rent controls restores incentives for landlords to maintain buildings. And, reorienting existing public spending to prioritize day-to-day operations and maintenance – mending pot-holes, painting steel bridges, keeping drains clear –would increase prevention. Undertaking these measures does not necessarily require governments to spend more, says the report, but to spend better.