Saturday, April 29, 2017

U.N. Risk Chief:  Put a Price on Disasters

People cross a flooded street after a massive landslide and flood in the Huachipa district of Lima, Peru on March 17, 2017. (Credit: REUTERS/Guadalupe Pard) Click to Enlarge.
Calculating the costs of natural disasters is a valuable way for governments to recognize and limit the potential for damage, especially as extreme weather linked to climate change occurs more often, the United Nations' disaster prevention chief says.

Recent deadly landslides caused by floods in Peru and Colombia show the urgent need for governments to prepare better and invest more, said Robert Glasser, head of the U.N. Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR).

"It's important to quantify the costs.  As long as the costs of these disasters are invisible, it is very easy to ignore them, and it's very hard to make the case to spend money on prevention," he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in an interview this week.

"It's about tying climate risk together with disaster risk more broadly and quantifying the costs historically and projecting future costs," he said.

The heavy human toll and economic damage of flooding were laid bare in Colombia this month when two landslides killed more than 330 people and left thousands of others homeless.

Flooding in Peru last month killed more than 100 people, while Hurricane Matthew in Haiti last year caused more than 600 deaths and $2.7 billion in economic losses.

"With climate change, we are seeing a marked increase in extreme weather," Glasser said.

Global economic losses from disasters have reached an average of $250 billion to $300 billion annually, according to a 2015 report by UNISDR.

A yearly global investment of $6 billion would pay off in benefits of $360 billion in less damage and fewer economic losses in 15 years, the report said.

Yet spending on preparedness and resilience remains low.  The U.N. has called on governments to spend at least 1 percent of development aid by 2020 on disaster preparation, but they currently spend just half that amount.

Read more at U.N. Risk Chief:  Put a Price on Disasters

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