Can We Ever Learn From Disasters of the Past?

June 4, 2018

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A new report Aftershocks: Remodeling the Past for a Resilient Future released by the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR) takes a good look at various disasters from the past and explores the likely impacts that similar events would have if they were to occur in today’s more populous and connected world.

Looking back at floods, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, the report examines what the impact would be across a range of sectors including agriculture, infrastructure and supply chain if similar events were to happen again today.

Aftershocks also looks at the vulnerability of more recent digital and electronic infrastructure if we were to encounter past scenarios such as the Carrington Event, a powerful solar storm that disrupted the telegraph networks in Europe and North America in 1859.

The report states that by 2050, population growth and rapid urbanization could put 1.3 billion people and $158 trillion US dollars in assets at risk from river and coastal floods alone.  This report is a very important reminder about the importance of planning for and managing our risk. Being unprepared could have grave consequences for communities, our environment and for our globally connected economy.

For all levels of government, understanding how risk modeling can be used to analyze natural events that led to the major disasters of the past, and to understand how these events might impact today’s more populous and connected world  in order to mitigate these risks may be one of the most important challenges that they face.

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