UN: ‘We can stop floods and wildfires from becoming disasters’

Early prevention is key, researchers stress

Net Hero Podcast

Wildfires, floods, heatwaves and earthquakes can be prevented from becoming disasters and a threat to life, says the UN.

This year witnessed earth-shattering natural disasters the world over, from wildfires in the Mediterranean, heatwaves across Europe and the US, droughts in Taiwan and floods in Nigeria.

The UN estimates that these collectively saw 10,000 tragically lose their lives and cost $280 billion (£241bn) in damages.

However, their similar starting points are a reason they can all be prevented from becoming more devastating than necessary, the UN University Institute for Environment and Human Security (UNU EHS) alleges.

Lead author Dr Zita Sebesvari explains: “They are caused by the same things, for example greenhouse gas emissions or unsustainable consumption.”

The report reveals that deforestation causes soil erosion, making land more susceptible to drought and sandstorms.

In a similar vein, unsustainable human consumption and a tendency to place economic interests over environmental ones has led to more disasters.

Early warning systems are touted as the key by the UN to preventing these issues from developing into something more severe.

This may be understanding the condition of a river or stream in urban areas and restoring it before flooding occurs to limit the impact. Similarly, prescribed burning, which is where fires are lit to maintain the health of a forest, can be a solution to stop the heavy impact of a forest fire before it happens.

“We have the right kind of solutions to better prevent and manage hazards but we need to urgently invest in scaling them up and developing a better understanding of how they can work in combination with each other,” stresses co-author Dr Jack O’Connor.

He concludes: “We can work together to prepare our communities in the event of a disaster. We are all part of the solution.”

Unfortunately, due to climate change, natural disasters will become more commonplace – and respecting the fact that this is the case is considered crucial. Putting preventative measures in early can ensure that communities are not hit disastrously when floods, fires or droughts occur.