World Bank Report: Cities are ‘Woefully Unprepared’ for Increasing Disaster Risks

May 17, 2016Global Challengesby EW News Desk Team

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The climate is changing at an ever increasing pace, creating extreme weather and other hazards. These threats pose serious threats to cities around the world. However, the World Bank notes that these same cities are failing to plan for these possible scenarios.

According to a study by the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR), by the year 2050 1.3 billion people and $158 trillion in property will exist in areas that could be threatened by rising rivers, sea levels, and extreme weather.

This prompted John Roome, the World Bank’s Senior Director for Climate Change to note, "Cities and coastal areas are woefully unprepared for the kind of climate and disaster risk now facing our world.”

The World Bank believes that as cities modernize, expand, and develop, they should be taking steps to lower the risks posed by weather. These changes could include restrictions on groundwater use, creating natural green spaces, elevating new construction above flood levels, and enhancing building codes to make structures more resistant to extreme weather.

Unfortunately, many city planners simply have no idea of the range of risks their cities face and how serious the damage could be. This is where the World Bank believes it can take action.

To plug this information gap, the World Bank has turned to a new, open-source tool called “ThinkHazard!” This product will pull together information on all potential disaster risks for countries, regions, cities, or other geographical denominations.

Disasters it covers includes almost anything imaginable, including floods, cyclones, heat waves, earthquakes, fires, volcanic eruptions, tsunamis, landslides, floods, droughts, etc. The tool will also provide suggestions on ways the region can reduce the risks of loss related to such disasters.

The value of the tool, according to Simpson, is that it aggregates information in a simpler, easier to use and understand format with practical suggestions. The “ThinkHazard!” tool was developed by GFDRR with city managers in mind.

According to the GFDRR, a combination of rising sea levels and sinking land (resulting from depletion of ground water) could cause enhanced disaster losses in 136 coastal cities. In 2010, total disaster losses in these regions totaled $6 billion. By 2070, the GFDRR believes those numbers could climb as high as $1 trillion.

Francis Ghesquiere, Head of the GFDRR Secretariat said, “The decisions we make today are defining the disasters of tomorrow … We have a huge challenge – but also a huge opportunity – to try to make sure the trillions of dollars that will go into new housing, new infrastructure, the extension of cities... do not increase risk exposure but rather reduce it.”