21st Century Global Disasters
A fresh update on global disasters counts since 2000
A new peer-reviewed paper out this week by Alimonti and Mariani asks whether global disasters have increased. Their answer is that they have not (and if the name sounds familiar, it is the same Alimonti whose paper is being improperly retracted — more fresh info on that in the coming days).
As I read their paper today I noticed that the time series they reported from the EM-DAT database looked a bit different than that I had last explored and presented here at THB late last year. So today I downloaded the most recent data from EM-DAT, and indeed there has been some changes to the most recent three years, presumably due to late entries into the database (however I will enquire as all post-hoc dataset updates should be documented). EM-DAT has been funded since the late 1990s by the U.S. Agency for International Development.
Below is the updated time series of global hydrological, climatological and meteorological disasters in the EM-DAT database, along with the linear trend, over the period 2000 to 2022.
You can see that there is no upwards trend. This lack of trend has not been reported by anyone in the legacy media (and I would be happy to be corrected). However, the completely false notion that global weather and climate disasters have increased and will continue to increase is commonly reported in the legacy media, buoyed by the promotion of false information by organizations that include the United Nations. In 2020 the U.N. claimed falsely of a “staggering rise in climate-related disasters over the last twenty years.”
Based on false claims such as this, Alimonti and Mariani are “concerned about the misrepresentation of the natural disaster trend because such claims have been uncritically broadcast by many different media.” Indeed.
The U.N. forecasts a 40% increase in disasters from 2015 to 2030, as shown below, based on extending a linear trend applied to the EM-DAT dataset from 1970. We know that this methodology is flawed simply because EM-DAT explains clearly that the increase in disasters in its database to 2000 is due to better reporting, and not changes in underlying counts of actual disasters.
We can overlay the UN prediction on the data from 2000 to 2022 and see how the U.N. prediction is faring so far — that overlay is shown below.
There will no doubt be many eyes on the EM-DAT database in coming years to ensure data quality, methodological consistency, and to identify any biases from continued improvement in reporting of disasters. Regardless what happens with trends in disaster counts, it is absolutely essential to remember that if you are looking for a signal of changes in climate — always look directly at weather and climate data, not data on economic or human impacts.
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