Guest essay by Eric Worrall
The United Nations Office of Disaster Risk Reduction is so obscure they don’t even have their own ambassador. But according to a study, unless the UNDRR receives more money, disasters could soon claim a trillion dollars per year.
Revenge of the nerds: Disaster risk reduction and climate change
18 March 2021
‘It is time to inject some urgency into the DRR agenda.’
John H. Patterson
Humanitarian professional who has deployed to more than 25 countries and advises international organisations on issues including disaster risk reduction
Topher L. McDougal
Development economist and Associate Professor of Economic Development at the University of San Diego’s Kroc School of Peace Studies
Disaster risk reduction, or DRR, has long been a pariah of the international development and humanitarian assistance worlds.
Floating in the ambiguous space between disaster response and economic development, DRR lacks both the immediacy of a humanitarian crisis and the allure of big-budget development projects. Preventing disasters and reducing hazard risks are a good idea and a wonderful talking point, but DRR has consistently failed to capture sustained attention and funding. For all the fervour over the “humanitarian to development nexus” or the “triple nexus” – joining up peacebuilding, humanitarian assistance, and development – DRR continues to be more of an afterthought than a central pillar of aid strategy.
Part of the problem is that DRR is just not very marketable. The UN’s humanitarian aid coordination arm, OCHA, can list Beyoncé and Forest Whitaker as collaborators; the UN’s refugee agency, UNHCR, has Angelina Jolie; and the UN Development Programme recently added Yemi Alade to a list of goodwill ambassadors that already included the likes of Padma Lakshmi and Antonio Banderas. The UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction, UNDRR, has none.
But if American cinema has taught us anything, it is that ignoring the nerds comes at a price – a big price. In a recent paper published in the International Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction, we estimate that a 1-degree increase in global temperatures would require a near tripling in disaster response spending just to match the current level of humanitarian coverage, which is generally agreed to be insufficient. This means that – within 15 years – failing to properly prepare for the coming impacts of climate change could lead to an annual global disaster response bill topping $1 trillion (including often unreported or under-counted domestic spending).
…Read more: https://www.thenewhumanitarian.org/opinion/2021/3/18/revenge-of-the-nerds-disaster-risk-reduction-and-climate-change
The abstract of the study;
The global financial burden of humanitarian disasters: Leveraging GDP variation in the age of climate change
Author links Topher L.McDougal, John H.Patterson
- Total humanitarian spending is 13 times as high as official figures: $367 billion.•
- 1 °C global temperature rise implies disaster spending of $1 trillion, 0.75% of GDP.•
- GDP per capita is the most reliably significant predictor of international flows.•
- Temperature anomalies predict significant increases to disaster vulnerability.
We quantify the global spending burden of humanitarian disaster response. While international response flows are well documented, global domestic spending on disasters is virtually unknown in any comprehensive way. We employ log-log fixed-effects models to estimate international humanitarian disaster response spending as recorded by UNOCHA’s Financial Tracking Service (FTS) by recipient country and year, as a function of GDP per capita. Conservatively assuming all humanitarian disaster response spending in the poorest countries originates from without, we calculate a Population Attributable Fraction for the proportion of total spending attributable to GDP per capita, reverse-calculating yearly estimates of total humanitarian disaster response spending. We find global humanitarian expenditures to be roughly 13 times as high as official FTS figures, or around $367 billion annually. Finally, we use Simultaneous Equation Models to examine how total humanitarian disaster response spending is influenced by climate change (proxied by NASA’s GISS Surface Temperature data). We find each 1° C rise in 5-year temperature anomalies would require an annual 3.1% (95% CI: 0.18%–6.01%) rise in humanitarian spending. In total, we estimate a further 1° C rise in global temperatures would require total annual humanitarian expenditures of approximately $1 trillion, or about 0.75% of worldwide 2019 GDP, in order to maintain current levels of humanitarian needs coverage. We find climate change to influence humanitarian spending only via GDP per capita and disaster hazard exposure, even though temperature anomalies predict significant increases to disaster vulnerability.
You have to admit this is a breathtakingly audacious climate pitch; demanding UN money to prevent disasters, citing disaster movies as evidence we should listen to their demand, then presumably, at some point in the future, taking credit for climate disasters which didn’t happen.