Science can save lives
The use of science to reduce the effects of future natural hazards such as floods, droughts and earthquakes must be stepped up and adopted more widely according to a new Foresight report published on 27 November 2012.
Reducing Risks of Future Disasters: Priorities for Decision Makers sets out how the threat of future disasters resulting from natural hazards can be stabilised if decision makers make better use of technological developments and existing risk assessment methods. This will save lives, livelihoods and resources in developing countries.
Professor Sir John Beddington launched the report at the Overseas Development Institute (ODI) on 27 November 2012.
Professor Duncan Wingham, Chief Executive of the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) and Chair of the UK Collaborative on Development Sciences (UKCDS) said: “The UK Research Councils welcome this report and look forward to working with UKCDS to explore how we can help deliver its recommendations."
The report urges that disaster risk reduction is routinely built in to developments as diverse as urban infrastructure, ecosystem protection and mobile telephone regulation. These measures would help reduce the cost of disasters, which has outstripped the total international aid investment over the past 20 years and led to the loss of 1.3 million lives and $2 trillion of damage.
Government Chief Scientific Adviser Sir John Beddington, who led the research, said: “Death and destruction are not the inevitable consequences of natural hazards. We need to grasp this. Urbanisation over the next three decades, particularly in Africa and Asia, will continue. While this could lead to greater exposure and vulnerability, it also presents the greatest opportunity to protect large concentrations of people. Science already explains why disasters happen, where many of the risks lie and sometimes when. Disaster risk reduction going forward needs to be firmly rooted in high-quality science-based models so that the best decisions on what works can be made."
The report outlines a number of priorities for decision makers on improving the science and how it is used in disaster risk reduction, including:
- Understanding what works and what does not work in reducing risks is critical. Easily accessed, robust evidence on costs and benefits is badly needed
- Like the insurance industry, the view of the future needs to be rooted in science based risk models. Research effort is needed to make models of disaster risk work with each other and produce easy to use forecasts of disaster risk
- The next generation of supercomputers and satellites will greatly strengthen disaster forecasting. International collaboration could make this expensive scientific infrastructure affordable.
Save the Children’s Humanitarian Director, Gareth Owen said: “Science can save lives. Whether it is anticipating where and when families will go hungry during a drought or improving our understanding of how disease might spread amongst a refugee population, innovations in research and technology offer us an opportunity to improve our response to disasters. Reliable, robust evidence should underpin all our efforts to prevent and respond to humanitarian emergencies. The challenge for humanitarians and development workers is building systems which are able to respond to the latest research so we can manage risk rather than crisis.
To download the report in full, please see the Foresight website.
The Humanitarian Innovation Fund small grant facility is permanently open for proposals up to £20,000 for the recognition, invention and dissemination of an innovation. more
As part of its mission to share rural development experiences and insights with other practitioners, IIRR offers short-term international and regional “Applied Leaning” courses more