Fuel Relief

Nothing happens without fuel.

The international disasters database EM-DAT, as cited by Oxfam, reports that the number of disasters and climate related disasters have been on the rise over the past 30 years. There are nearly four times as many disasters annually now than there were in 1980.

Climate-related disasters are on the rise and will continue to rise as human-caused and natural phenomena alike pair together meaning more rainfall and intense storms in the short term. Ocean temperatures are rising, creating new global patterns in precipitation and increasing the intensity of hurricanes and typhoons. Increased incidence of superstorms leads to more flooding, displacement, with overall increased damage and loss, occurring in less predictable ways across the globe. The commonly termed “El Niño” cycles have been shifting and intensifying from this oceanic warming, bringing greater flooding and storms. This is particularly the case in El Niño years when oceanic temperatures in the Pacific are already warmer, with greater potential for drought in off years. 

While storms and droughts alike are indeed more intense and severe, why more disasters are occurring has less to do with ‘Mother Nature increasing her wrath’ and more to do with the global population increasing rapidly – leading to heightened vulnerability of populations, or the poorest with the least resources – living in high risk areas. Those populations alter the local landscape as well, which exacerbates the effects of the disaster itself. Cutting down mangrove forests along coasts, for example, has reduced natural capacities of an area to mitigate storm effects for the land adjacent. Land changes along the Mississippi and in New Orleans also exacerbated the effects of Katrina. What used to be a small disaster becomes a big one, leading to additional count on the disaster roster.

The World Bank reports that 160 countries have more than a quarter of their population living in high risk areas. Between 2001 and 2010, more than $1.2 trillion was lost to the increased rates of natural disasters. This was a dramatic rise, which between 1981 and 1990 had been roughly $528 billion.[1]  So not only are more people at risk, but the economic effects are devastating at both local and global scales.

[1] Garrett, Samaria. 14 Jun. 2015. Are Natural Disasters Increasing? The Borgen Project. http://borgenproject.org/natural-disasters-increasing/.