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Forest fires, floods do not have to become disasters: United Nations (UN) risk report

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  Hazards such as earthquakes floods heat waves and wildfires can be prevented from becoming life threatening disasters according to the authors of a UN report released Wednesday From unprecedented heat waves in British Columbia to wildfires in the Mediterranean floods in Nigeria and droughts in Taiwan the period between 2021 and 2022 saw unprecedented catastrophic disasters in every corner of the world Some 10 000 people lost their lives and an estimated 280 million worth of damage was caused worldwide The latest report Interconnected Disaster RiskOpens in new windows from the United Nations University Institute for Environment and Human Security UNU EHSOpens in new window finds that many of these disasters share root causes At the same time the study authors found that solutions to prevent or control them are also closely related Connecting the dots Disasters that occur in completely different parts of the world at first seem disconnected from each other But when you start looking at them in more detail it quickly becomes clear that they are caused by the same things for example greenhouse gas emissions or unsustainable consumption said Dr Zita Sebesvari lead author and deputy director of UNU EHS To connect the dots the Interconnected Disaster Risks report research team looked below the surface of each disaster and identified the drivers that allowed them to occur in the first place For example deforestation leads to soil erosion which in turn makes the land highly susceptible to hazards such as landslides droughts and sandstorms An even deeper dive shows that the drivers of disasters are shaped by shared root causes that are more systemic in nature such as across economic and political systems Deforestation goes back to the placing of economic interests over those of the environment and to unsustainable consumption patterns Other common root causes found in the report include unequal development and livelihood opportunities human induced greenhouse gas emissions and legacies of colonialism It is root causes like these that can be found in disasters around the world The connections don t stop at root causes and drivers but also with who and what is most at risk Vulnerable groups both in human settlements and in natural ecosystems continue to be the most affected by disasters Let nature work However solutions are also interconnected which means that one type of solution can be applied in various contexts to reduce the impact of disasters in different parts of the world Furthermore there are multiple solutions to address a disaster and they are most powerful when applied in combination with each other The let nature work solution for example relies on the force of nature to prevent risks and avert disasters Prescribed fires in forests can reduce the risk of megafires in the Mediterranean restoring urban rivers and streams can reduce the impacts of floods like the one that hit New York after Hurricane Ida and investing in boosting early warning systems can improve prediction and communication of risks in advance In three of the events analyzed in the report the British Columbia heat wave the Tonga volcano and tsunami and the Lagos floods in Nigeria early warning systems could have reduced deaths according to the report If we don t want the disasters we are currently experiencing to become the new normal we need to recognize that they are interconnected as are their solutions says lead author Dr Jack O Connor We have the right kind of solutions to better prevent and manage hazards but we urgently need to invest in scaling them up and developing a better understanding of how they can work in combination with each other We are all part of the solution Not all solutions will suit everyone Redistributing resources across generations countries and groups of people with different vulnerabilities or calling for the inclusion of actors who are rarely heard will mean that some will need to share their resources more widely than they currently do Solutions are not limited to governments policymakers or the private sector They can also be carried out at the individual level the researchers insist We can let nature work when we give it back spaces We can promote sustainable consumption by being aware of where our food comes from and where we buy it We can work together to prepare our communities for a disaster says O Connor The point is that we as individuals are part of a larger collective action which goes a long way toward creating significant positive change We re all part of the solution
Forest fires, floods do not have to become disasters: United Nations (UN) risk report

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Hazards such as earthquakes, floods, heat waves and wildfires can be prevented from becoming life-threatening disasters, according to the authors of a UN report released Wednesday.

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From unprecedented heat waves in British Columbia to wildfires in the Mediterranean, floods in Nigeria and droughts in Taiwan; the period between 2021 and 2022 saw unprecedented catastrophic disasters in every corner of the world.

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Some 10,000 people lost their lives and an estimated $280 million worth of damage was caused worldwide.

The latest report Interconnected Disaster RiskOpens in new windows, from the United Nations University Institute for Environment and Human Security (UNU-EHSOpens in new window), finds that many of these disasters share root causes.

At the same time, the study authors found that solutions to prevent or control them are also closely related.

Connecting the dots “Disasters that occur in completely different parts of the world at first seem disconnected from each other.

But when you start looking at them in more detail, it quickly becomes clear that they are caused by the same things, for example greenhouse gas emissions or unsustainable consumption,” said Dr. Zita Sebesvari, lead author and deputy director of UNU-EHS.

To connect the dots, the Interconnected Disaster Risks report research team looked “below the surface” of each disaster and identified the drivers that allowed them to occur in the first place.

For example, deforestation leads to soil erosion, which in turn makes the land highly susceptible to hazards such as landslides, droughts, and sandstorms.

An even deeper dive shows that the drivers of disasters are shaped by shared root causes that are more systemic in nature, such as across economic and political systems.

Deforestation goes back to the placing of economic interests over those of the environment and to unsustainable consumption patterns.

Other common root causes found in the report include unequal development and livelihood opportunities, human-induced greenhouse gas emissions, and legacies of colonialism.

It is root causes like these that can be found in disasters around the world.

The connections don’t stop at root causes and drivers, but also with who and what is most at risk; Vulnerable groups, both in human settlements and in natural ecosystems, continue to be the most affected by disasters.

‘Let nature work’ However, solutions are also interconnected, which means that one type of solution can be applied in various contexts to reduce the impact of disasters in different parts of the world.

Furthermore, there are multiple solutions to address a disaster and they are most powerful when applied in combination with each other.

The “let nature work” solution, for example, relies on the force of nature to prevent risks and avert disasters.

Prescribed fires in forests can reduce the risk of megafires in the Mediterranean; restoring urban rivers and streams can reduce the impacts of floods like the one that hit New York after Hurricane Ida; and investing in boosting early warning systems can improve prediction and communication of risks in advance.

In three of the events analyzed in the report (the British Columbia heat wave, the Tonga volcano and tsunami, and the Lagos floods in Nigeria), early warning systems could have reduced deaths according to the report.

“If we don’t want the disasters we are currently experiencing to become the new normal, we need to recognize that they are interconnected, as are their solutions,” says lead author Dr Jack O‘Connor.

“We have the right kind of solutions to better prevent and manage hazards, but we urgently need to invest in scaling them up and developing a better understanding of how they can work in combination with each other.” ‘We are all part of the solution’ Not all solutions will suit everyone.

Redistributing resources across generations, countries and groups of people with different vulnerabilities, or calling for the inclusion of actors who are rarely heard, will mean that some will need to share their resources more widely than they currently do.

Solutions are not limited to governments, policymakers or the private sector.

They can also be carried out at the individual level, the researchers insist.

“We can let nature work when we give it back spaces.

We can promote sustainable consumption by being aware of where our food comes from and where we buy it.

“We can work together to prepare our communities for a disaster,” says O’Connor.

“The point is that we, as individuals, are part of a larger collective action, which goes a long way toward creating significant positive change.

We’re all part of the solution”.

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