Report: Countries Are Getting Way Better At Protecting Themselves From Natural Disasters

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Michael Bastasch Contributor
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A new report contains some startling findings many global warming alarmists don’t like to admit: countries are getting much better at protecting themselves against natural disasters and disasters themselves are becoming relatively less costly as economies grow.

“Here there is a clear trend, that many (but not all) countries are protecting themselves better against disasters by building better, and therefore and are reducing their risk of high losses,” Dr. James Daniell, the creator of a global natural disaster loss database called CATDAT, said in a statement.

Daniell analyzed 35,000 natural disasters over the last 115 years (1900 to 2015) and found that such events have killed 8 million people and caused $7 trillion in damages. Despite the big price tag, damages from natural disasters are decreasing in many countries, which are getting better at mitigating floods, earthquakes through things like higher building standards and flood control.

“Less developed nations are often more vulnerable towards catastrophes — that means relative to population and capital — more deaths and higher economic losses are expected post-event,” Daniell said.

Environmentalists and politicians often cite statistics to highlight how costly natural disasters are to the economy, and how they will be made worse by carbon dioxide emissions. President Barack Obama himself warned global warming will mean more “[h]eat waves, droughts, wildfires and floods.”

“Climate change projections show that there will be continuing increases in the occurrence and severity of some extreme events by the end of the century,” reads a recent report by the Obama administration. “Some regions of the United States have already experienced costly impacts … from observed changes in the frequency, intensity, or duration of certain extreme events.”

In absolute terms, damages from natural disasters have increased, but that’s not because they are getting any more severe or common. It’s because there’s more stuff — like homes, business, road and such — to be damaged by floods, storms and other events. When indexed for economic growth, disaster costs are actually decreasing, according to Daniell.

Flooding caused the lion’s share of damages of the last century, about one-third, and earthquakes have caused about 26 percent of damages. Storms caused 19 percent of damages, and volcanic eruptions caused about 1 percent of damages.

Flood protection is one area where countries have made huge improvements. Daniell notes that from 1960 onward, the normalized losses from floods decreased as countries got wealthier and could afford flood mitigation — much of the development occurred in the rapidly -growing economies of China and Japan.

Daniell’s research reflects results presented by Dr. Roger Pielke, Jr. of University of Colorado in 2013. Pielke told federal lawmakers in a hearing natural disasters were not becoming more frequent or intense, and the damages in terms of dollars from these disasters was falling when accounting for economic growth.

“It is misleading and just plain incorrect to claim that disasters associated with hurricanes, tornadoes, floods or droughts have increased on climate timescales either in the United States or globally,” Pielke said in his testimony before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. “It is further incorrect to associate the increasing costs of disasters with the emission of greenhouse gases.”

“Hurricanes have not increased in the U.S. in frequency, intensity or normalized damage since at least 1900,” Pielke said. “The same holds for tropical cyclones globally since at least 1970.”

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