Many Fewer Killed in Natural Disasters Than Were Killed 50 Years Ago

(p. A13) . . . it’s deceptive to track disasters primarily in terms of aggregate cost. Since 1990, the global population has increased by more than 2.2 billion, and the global economy has more than doubled in size. This means more lives and wealth are at risk with each successive disaster.

Despite this increased exposure, disasters are claiming fewer lives. Data tracked by Our World in Data shows that from 2007-17, an average of 70,000 people each year were killed by natural disasters. In the decade 50 years earlier, the annual figure was more than 370,000. Seventy thousand is still far too many, but the reduction represents enormous progress.

The material cost of disasters also has decreased when considered as a proportion of the global economy. Since 1990, economic losses from disasters have decreased by about 20% as a proportion of world-wide gross domestic product. The trend still holds when the measurement is narrowed to weather-related disasters, which decreased similarly as a share of global GDP even as the dollar cost of disasters increased.

For the full commentary, see:

Roger Pielke Jr. “Some Good News—About Natural Disasters, of All Things; In half a century, the average number of annual fatalities declined more than 80%.” The Wall Street Journal (Saturday, Aug. 4, 2018): A13.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date Aug. 3, 2018, and has the same title as the print version.)

Pielke’s op-ed piece quoted above, is related to his book:

Pielke Jr., Roger. The Rightful Place of Science: Disasters & Climate Change. Tempe, AZ: Consortium for Science, Policy & Outcomes, 2018.

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