EM-DAT Disaster Database Creating Data Disasters

Guest Essay by Kip Hansen — 21 October 2021

The United Nations World Meteorological Organization (UN WMO) just released a 90-page report titled “WMO Atlas Of Mortality And Economic Losses From Weather, Climate And Water Extremes (1970–2019)” [ pdf here ].   The United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction ( UNDRR ) and the Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters ( CRED ) jointly released a report on the International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction, October 13th 2020,  a 28-page report titled “The human cost of disasters: an overview of the last 20 years (2000-2019)” [ pdf here ]. 

Both of these reports themselves are “Data Disasters” – in that the data upon which they are based is so flawed that it is not fit for purpose.  The flaw is, or should be, obvious to anyone even glancing at the data. 

The Human Cost… report claims to “confirm… how extreme weather events have come to dominate the disaster landscape in the 21st century.”  And “In the period 2000 to 2019, there were 7,348 major recorded disaster events….This is a sharp increase over the previous twenty years. Between 1980 and 1999, 4,212 disasters…”

The WMO Atlas of Mortality… report insists that “The number of weather, climate and water extremes are increasing and will become more frequent and severe in many parts of the world as a result of climate change.”

Both reports depend heavily, almost exclusively, on what is known as the CRED EM-DAT disaster database.  The database is very deep, covers a lot of informational territory and as a composite looks like this rendering from Our World In Data:

You can find this image here.  The same page allows you to download the underlying data and see the data in tabular form.  The data runs through 2019 as the last complete, verified year in the data set. 

Some readers may remember that I wrote about this same image a couple of years ago, more than once.  Why?  Because there is something so obviously wrong with the data that I could not leave the question alone.  I lived through the period of 1970-1999. I was an adult. I generally followed world events.  I traveled and sailed all over southern Europe, North Africa, and the Caribbean.  I am no genius, but I was quite sure that if disasters had been quadrupling all around me, I would have at least been aware of the fact.   But, I hadn’t seen any quadrupling of natural disasters.

So, full of stubborn hubris, I emailed the database manager at CRED/EM-DAT.  She is Regina Below.  She was very helpful and very responsive.  I will simply paste in a copy of the pertinent parts of our email exchange in 2019:

My emailed question:

Subject : EM-DAT DB — “Reported” disasters

 Dear EM-DAT,

I am a freelance journalist and write on science topics.  I have looked at some of your data, such as represented here:

[ image above but only through 2018 ]

The data shown does not align well with my understanding of Global Natural Disasters, in that it shows a HUGE increase from 1970 to about 1998.  My guess would be that 1970 to 1998 represents an increase in REPORTING and not in actual Natural Disasters. 

Can you confirm this please — or correct me if I am wrong.

Thank you,  Kip Hansen

EM-DAT’s Reply:

Date:    Fri, 23 Aug 2019 13:54:38 +0000

From:   Regina Below <regina.below@uclouvain.be>

To:        kipxxxx@xxxx

Dear Mr Hansen,

Thank for your e-mail.  You are right, it is an increase in the reporting.  I share your e-mail with your director, Prof. D. Guha-Sapir, who may want to add her input.

Best regards,  Regina

So, the graphic shown at Our World In Data should be properly annotated as follows:

Both of the recent United Nations reports compare decadal data:

“The number of disasters, related deaths and economic losses recorded in the database were assessed for the 50-year period as well as by decade (1970–1979, 1980–1989, 1990–1999, 2000–2009 and 2010–2019) to highlight significant disasters and areas of disparity, as well as any discernible trends over time.” (WMO Atlas of Mortality…)

(UNDRR, “Human Cost of Disasters…”)

Both Regina Below and her Director at CRED EM-DAT were reviewers of the WMO report:

“The following people are also thanked for their reviews of the publication: Regina Below (Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED) Emergency Events Database (EM-DAT)),… Debarati Guha (CRED EM-DAT)…”   (WMO Atlas of Mortality…)

Regina Below is the EM-DAT Database Manager and Professor Debarati Guha-Sapir was the Director of the Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED) until recently.   Both of these professionals know that the data before 1999-2000 or so is INVALID – in that “it is an increase in the reporting” and does not represent an increase in natural disasters

Regina Below clearly explained this in her August 2019 email to me.   She copied her email to Guha-Sapir at the time.  So, Guha-Sapir, also knew.  Anyone in the field of disasters or disaster relief would have known this – it would be impossible to not know it. 

Yet elite experts write huge official reports from the United Nations on data that is known and reported openly to be only a reflection of improvements in reporting mechanisms — using this data as if it were real-world data about real-world disasters.  And the reports use this false, misleading data to spread the false impression that “things are getting worse” and thus instilling fear in the hearts and minds of a trusting population. 

The truth is that things are getting BETTER.

Even the EM-DAT database (corrupted by failure to identify shortcomings of early data) shows:

Deaths by decade

The EM-DAT record reveals that deaths decreased almost threefold by weather-, climate- and water-related disasters from 1970 to 2019. Death tolls have fallen decade by decade – from over 50 thousand deaths in the 1970s to less than 20 thousand in the 2010s. The 1970s and 1980s reported an average of 170 related deaths per day. In the 1990s, that average fell by one third to 90 related deaths per day, then continued to fall in the 2010s to 40 related deaths per day (Figure 4). (WMO Atlas of Mortality…)

How does that play out?  Early data is MISSING a great deal of data on deaths in the 1970s-1990s (but gradually better closer to the present) but even the small proportion of actual deaths reported in the ‘70s and ‘80s are GREATER than more accurately reported death counts since the turn of the century!  This means that things are not only better, they are far better.

The following portion of the EM-DAT Natural Disasters dataset is reliable:

All-natural disasters are trending down, total natural disasters are trending down. 

♫ I’ve got to admit it’s getting better,

a little better every day ♫

# # # # #

Authors Comment:

The people are being fooled by this nonsense that is constantly being pumped out by journalists who have forgotten (or choose to ignore) their sacred duty to their readers and listeners.    The people are being fooled by scientists who seem to value the prestige and financial/professional rewards of being on the agreeable consensus-side of scientific controversies more than their personal integrity and their duty to disinterestedly seek and report the truth. And far, far too many in both professions are just “Going Along to Get Along”.

If you want to meet someone who values their commitment to science and its Ideals, attend any public appearance by Willie Soon…or Will Happer…or David Legates…or Tim Ball…or Pat Michaels…or William Briggs…or Christopher Monckton…this list is far longer, these are just the off the top of my head, some that I’ve met in the last week. 

I just want you to know that if you are fighting the good fight for realism about the Climate – the good fight for freedom of speech – the good fight to protect your children from indoctrination in public schools – the good fight for our rights and responsibilities under the US Constitution and their equivalents in your own nation –>

Don’t Give Up!

# # # # #

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Rud Istvan
October 21, 2021 2:16 pm

Kip, telling the truth ruins their climate disaster narrative in the run up to COP26.
You are a spoilsport.

Rud Istvan
Reply to  Kip Hansen
October 21, 2021 3:27 pm

Good one, Kip. I debated the sarc tag, but thought it obvious enough.

October 21, 2021 2:19 pm

I wonder how much political pressure Regina Below and others were under to not challenge the official narrative.

Reply to  Kip Hansen
October 21, 2021 3:46 pm

@Kip – you can be a reviewer of something, and provide honest objections. That does not mean those objections will be taken seriously by those with the agenda. But they will still use your name.

It takes someone who is either professionally and financially secure – or extremely bullheaded – to “whistle blow” against the “correct” view.

(One can see this in the “97% Consensus” scam. Many of the honest researchers who had authored peer reviewed papers that did NOT support catastrophic AGW in that “study” did not dare to speak up about what their research actually indicated.)

Chris Wright
Reply to  Kip Hansen
October 22, 2021 3:57 am

Thank you very much for this excellent piece.
When I first looked at EM-DAT I found that deaths from natural disasters had massively fallen over past decades. This was a very clear contradiction of the fantasy “climate crisis”.
Of course, probably all of the global data shows the lot of mankind has been steadily improving over the centuries with the trend accelerating in the 20th century, precisely when the world was warming. One of my favourites is the OECD human wellbeing index which starts, if I remember correctly, in 1820 and shows an accelerating rise in human wellbeing. Sadly it ends in 2000 – possibly the OECD realised how very inconvenient their own research was!
But I was surprised when I saw the EM-DAT data that showed a dramatic rise in natural disasters, as it clearly contradicted the data on deaths. Now we know exactly what caused this contradiction. It is completely shameful. Why would anyone believe anything the UN says about climate change? And, absolutely, EM-DAT should make the data reporting problem very clear.
It’s very fortunate that you received the email from Below – it provides very strong evidence. But, I wonder, did you think of contacting Below again to ask – politely of course! – how she explains what happened. Of course, it could be innocent, maybe she pointed out the problem but was ignored. Or she stayed quiet, which would be shameful.
I also wonder if the reviewer’s comments were publicly released?
Again, many thanks for your excellent work.

Reply to  Chris Wright
October 22, 2021 5:47 am

Anything that the United Nations has their fingerprints on today is highly suspect or flat out wrong. Just yesterday, we saw the post from the Lancet in a frenzy about human health in crisis due to climate change. I spent a few minutes looking into the Wellcome Foundation (owner of Lancet) and their cadre of >30 “expert” scientists who wrote that propaganda piece. The lead “expert” author has never had a job beyond her post-doc, and much of the input for the document came from UN “experts.”

In other arenas, it is the UN who are pushing the “Principles for Responsible Investing (PRI)” movement, which is trying to coerce financial investment companies into being signatories. The centerpiece of PRI is the UN’s push to shame signatories and other companies and organizations into Environment, Social and Governance (ESG) reporting. In the U.S., there are fewer than 1,000 PRI signatories out of close to 30,000 investment companies. These include only two teacher retirement funds (guess who — California and New York City) and only five U.S. universities (most prominently — Univ. of California and Hahvard). Among private investors were Bank of America, J.P. Morgan, and Black Rock. Any right thinking person doing business with any of these organizations should seriously consider taking their investments and their college age children elsewhere.

While the propaganda makes it appear that these are widely endorsed practices, it is gratifying to see that “97%” have not succumbed to the UN “one world government” trash.

Tom Abbott
Reply to  Chris Wright
October 22, 2021 1:55 pm

“Why would anyone believe anything the UN says about climate change?”

There’s the $64,000.00 question.

The UN has a climate change political agenda. We can’t believe anything they say because the UN leadership distort the truth to fit their political agenda. This UN claim of increasing disasters is just another example.

Nothing the UN says about the Earth’s climate should be accepted at face value. Assume it is a distortion of the truth until shown to be otherwise.

Old Retired Guy
October 21, 2021 2:21 pm

Gee, politicians (that’s all top UN officials are) lying to us. I’m shocked!!

Zig Zag Wanderer
October 21, 2021 2:22 pm

journalists who have forgotten (or choose to ignore) their sacred duty to their readers and listeners

I’m not sure where that idea of ‘sacred duty’ comes from. Their only duty is to stop the ads from all running together, and it’s not sacred at all.

Last edited 1 year ago by Zig Zag Wanderer
Reply to  Kip Hansen
October 21, 2021 5:54 pm

Admittedly, this was high school not college, but when I was in high school there was a dispute between several candidates running for student council.

The person who wrote up the story was highly critical, even insulting, towards the entire process.
One thing the author didn’t bother to acknowledge in the article was that he led the losing parties team at the hearing.
I asked the journalism teacher about this, and he just shrugged his shoulders and commented that it wasn’t that big a deal. This was back in the mid-70’s.
The really sad part was that I once considered the author to be a friend.

Last edited 1 year ago by MarkW
Reply to  MarkW
October 21, 2021 6:20 pm

For completeness, I was one of the people who was attacked in the article.

Tom Abbott
Reply to  Zig Zag Wanderer
October 22, 2021 2:03 pm

“I’m not sure where that idea of ‘sacred duty’ comes from.”

That was in the past, perpetrated by the news media itself, as a means of establishing the news media as the Voice of Authority in Society.

Today, too many of the journalists have a political agenda that determines what they write. They pretend to be the Voice of Authority, when they are actually the Voice of one political ideology, that of Socialism.

J Mac
October 21, 2021 2:27 pm

Anyone with a lick of common sense can look at that data and see at a glance there is something really wrong with the graph. Ugh…

Reply to  J Mac
October 21, 2021 4:59 pm

Seems sense isnt very common these days & few people are taught to understand/interpret data.

Ron Long
Reply to  saveenergy
October 21, 2021 6:01 pm

Right, common sense and science have given way to feelings.

Tom Abbott
Reply to  saveenergy
October 22, 2021 2:04 pm

Many people just read the headline.

October 21, 2021 2:32 pm

I’ve got to admit it’s getting better,a little better every day
Not approaching the next COP jet in knees-up it’s not as the usual suspects go full ballistic-
The Arctic Could Be Turning Into an ‘Ecological Trap’ For Migrating Animals (msn.com)
They really are a bunch of doomster sad sacks and need to be on medication for their affliction. If someone you know is feeling like that regularly there is help available-
Anxiety, depression and suicide prevention support – Beyond Blue

Tom Abbott
Reply to  observa
October 22, 2021 2:07 pm

“The Arctic Could Be Turning Into an ‘Ecological Trap’ For Migrating Animals ”

Well, if it is, it must be because of all that warm water intruding into the arctic from down south.

It looks like we might have an explanation for arctic amplification. And it’s not CO2.

October 21, 2021 2:34 pm


Any questions?

Reply to  Rob_Dawg
October 21, 2021 3:56 pm

xkcd is a seriously confused warmista.


but otherwise bitingly sharp.

Reply to  Rob_Dawg
October 21, 2021 3:56 pm

Can ghosts be photographed?

October 21, 2021 2:48 pm


Tony Sullivan
October 21, 2021 3:15 pm

The level of propaganda/garbage being spewed by the mainstream media over the past 30 days is worse than a 1-year old baby with a bad case of diarrhea.

Tom Abbott
Reply to  Kip Hansen
October 22, 2021 2:13 pm

Propaganda Blitz is more like it.

A propaganda blitz in the face of a worldwide shortage of fossil fuels.

Now, we are going to get to see what a world short of fossil fuels looks like. I don’t think your average person is going to want to continue down this path as the alarmists want us to do. I think the average person will want the availability of affordable fossil fuels restored as soon as possible.

The alarmist press will keep telling us to get rid of fossil fuels, but their message will fall on deaf ears now. The conseqences of no fossil fuels are starting to become apparent to everyone with the possible exception of the True Believers.

The next year is going to be very interesting.

October 21, 2021 3:25 pm

So it’s the same as with Assad,Saddam,Ghaddafi.
They have never changed.Just the way and quantity the bilionaires MSM was talking about them changed.

Reply to  SxyxS
October 21, 2021 4:32 pm

Saddam and Ghaddafi have changed.

Reply to  Mike McMillan
October 22, 2021 1:49 am

For the better.

alastair gray
October 21, 2021 3:43 pm

Kip, quote “The EM-DAT record reveals that deaths decreased almost threefold by weather-, climate- and water-related disasters from 1970 to 2019. Death tolls have fallen decade by decade – from over 50 thousand deaths in the 1970s to less than 20 thousand in the 2010s. The 1970s and 1980s reported an average of 170 related deaths per day. In the 1990s, that average fell by one third to 90 related deaths per day, then continued to fall in the 2010s to 40 related deaths per day (Figure 4). (WMO Atlas of Mortality…)”
This is in conflict with the numbers in the Figure 1 slide that you presented , and both are supposedly from, EM-DAT Can you please reconcile and comment

October 21, 2021 5:08 pm

The good news is we have them cold this time. Thanks Kip! Their data gun is smoking. No arcane “adjustments”, just a simple reporting increase artifact. This is as good as it gets. We should thank them for the simply bogus reports.

Reply to  David Wojick
October 22, 2021 7:13 am

I just checked the magic tree ring and there was no indication of any weather related deaths prior to 1850. Therefore, it is safe to conclude that 100% of deaths that occur in weather are caused by human released CO2. (My grant should be approved any day now to further this critical research.)

Robert of Texas
October 21, 2021 6:22 pm

“If the pretty picture can be twisted into representing the agenda, then lie about it and use it.”

A rule so often used by liberals.

October 21, 2021 6:40 pm

“…constantly being pumped out by journalists who have forgotten (or choose to ignore) their sacred duty to their readers…”
There are precious few old school journalists. Most are twenty-something otherwise unemployable hacks who just want the buck-a-word for their media submission and as many garbled stories as they can send their trapline of publishers in a week. CC is specially easy to write up since a number of sponsor orgs give you free use of their photos of smokestacks, dead whales, glacial till, wildfires, plastic beach detritus, etc, plus whole state-of-whatever-can-possibly-be-claimed article topics and sample paragraphs on melting polar caps, slowing North Atlantic currents, mass extinctions of birds, bugs, bees, owls, snails, the list goes on…heck you can cut and paste a thousand word CC article worth $500-$1000 bucks before finishing your breakfast coffee, that looks like you’ve been on a field trip for a month. And if you want to interview someone, they have the names of researchers who volunteered for their 15 minutes of fame, in your area…but that’s extra work and no more pay per word.

Reply to  Kip Hansen
October 22, 2021 7:13 am

You’re an anti-doomist….therefore it costs you a buck a word 🙂

Reply to  DMacKenzie
October 22, 2021 11:21 am

“There are precious few old school journalists.”

The problem is that, when asked why they wanted to be a journalist, most “modern” jouralists said “I want to change the world”.

That’s not journalism, that’s activism.

Peter K
October 21, 2021 10:19 pm

This column stacking of disasters is something I would expect from an Australian primary school teacher. Absolute rubbish.

Geoff Sherrington
October 22, 2021 3:06 am

One reason for people to be a sceptic is fear that ones life will be wrongly affected by decisions of people who know less about a subject than they do.
So, we have economists who study employment in a country and note some consequences of more or less unemployment, classing some scenarios as good and some as bad.
We have world ward from time to time. A sceptic should hate war because people are killed, but economists continue to work while wars are going. Most working people continue to work during war. Trucks need drivers whether they carry bombs or strawberries. The economist might conclude that his figues do not change much it is is one or the other.
It is amusing to read that Australia’s PM is under pressure to announce a net-zero carbon target by 2050. He indicated that he might do this, because hundreds of thousands of new jobs would ensure that the economy would continue to be fruitful.
Se what can happen when economists try ideas to put lipstick on pigs?
Sure, there might be just as many jobs after net-zero, but who among us would sanely change to a life of cleaning dust off solar panels instead of serving cold beers in an airconditioned pub while feeding free drinks to oneself and diverse pretty ladies.
Indeed, who would prefer to be in a shooting war instead of present employment? Economically, wars can be very good for some people, so they might argue against war with faint heart. Predictable. Even probable, given that recent changes to our society now make it better for scientists to shut up and not rebel against the establishment science. That is akin to a war in many respects.
Climate science wants to see people stop coal production and switch to installing tall windmills. OK by some economic theory, but has anyone asked the people if they want to change jobs? Fear of heights, anyone?
We are suddenly living in a world where, over my 80 years of Life, I have never seen such frenzy for people to make up and take up jobs whose main function is telling others what to do … or be punished. How sick can we get? Geoff S

October 22, 2021 9:44 am

In addition to the administrative increase in reporting over time, and better data management systems, I would think there is also an artificial increase in number due to more events being counted as disasters as more people are occupying more parts of the landscape. This will affect some specific types of disaster more than others, but will also increase the reported losses as more infrastructure and personal wealth is in the way.

Landslide are an interesting case study. I would expect a landslide in an unpopulated area that affected no people to be less likely to be reported. More populated areas means more chance for a landslide to intersect with one. But as more people occupy these precarious areas over time the occupation itself can increase the chance of landslides (road cuts, land hardening, poorly managed storm water, etc.). Finally, as people generally are raised out of poverty they own nicer homes and more stuff, making each landslide that does happen more expensive.

Roger Pielke Junior’s work on normalizing losses to GDP comes to mind.

October 22, 2021 4:08 pm

 The same misrepresentation of data is being used in the pandemic crusade. Last week I looked at the Government of Canada’s Covid-19 daily epidemiological update of October 13, and found an interesting chart :

Table 2. Characteristics and severe outcomes associated unvaccinated, partially vaccinated and fully vaccinated confirmed cases reported to PHAC, as of September 25, 2021

the same table has today been updated to as of October 2, 2021, but has not changed appreciably


the data are presented in a way that makes unvaccinated status look much more dangerous than vaccinated. But if you do the math of the outcomes “hospitalizations” and “deaths” as a percentage of “total cases” in each vaccination category, as opposed to percentages of the total cases tested positive, things look quite different.


Unvaccinated 5.3% of 663,023 cases 20% (6,983/35,060)
Not Yet Protected 7.0% of 39,484 cases 26% (715/2,761)
Partially Vaccinated 6.4% of 44,792 cases 23% (/668/2,850)
Fully Vaccinated 4.2% of 37,230 cases 29% (451/1,554)

And a week later, I watched the Acting Chief Medical Officer of Health of the province of Newfoundland and Labrador announce on the CBC Newsnetwork channel that this same database now showed that unvaccinated Canadians were ‘ten times more likely to test positive and 30 times more likely to be hospitalized’ than the vaccinated!

Meanwhile, just in the province of Quebec, hundreds of medical doctors are having their license to practice suspended indefinitely as of mid-November, until they become fully vaccinated. They will not even be allowed to do telemedicine or write prescriptions or referrals for their existing patients after that deadline.

Every day on the news, not just in Canada, but in the US, Belgium, France, and Switzerland, journalists, politicians, and medical specialist are denouncing anyone who fails to get vaccinated against Covid-19 as public enemy #1, whereas, according to the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, the currently available vaccines are completely ineffective in preventing infection or contagion, and thus logically, make the fully vaccinated public enemy number one, since the vaccine suppresses the symptoms, but not contagiousness.

Has our society lost its ability to think logically?

Reply to  otropogo
October 23, 2021 8:37 am

This morning a little hint of the truth about the claimed pandemic enemy #1 slipped out on the CBC Newsnet channel. It turns out that in Saskatchewan, currently the Canadian province “hardest hit” by the pandemic, (unvaccinated) children under the age of 12 now constitute one third of all new cases, and their portion is growing, as is the number of them being hospitalized.

So how does demonizing and ostracizing unvaccinated health care workers and other adults serve public safety? In the province if Quebec, the only accepted excuse for non-vaccination is if one has had at least one injection and experienced a documented serious reaction!

If random testing of both vaccinated and unvaccinated and tracing of new positive cases were instituted in Canada, it’s almost certain that the majority of new cases would prove to be transmitted by the fully vaccinated. What’s needed is a nasal vaccine which protects against infection and contagion, such as that currently being developed by Oxford AstraZeneca, as reported online by JAMA September 28:

Health Agencies Update
September 28, 2021
Rita Rubin, MA
JAMA. 2021;326(12):1138. doi:10.1001/jama.2021.14996
 COVID-19 Resource Center
dministering the Oxford/AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine through the nose reduced viral shedding in
animal models, a recent study led by a National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID)
scientist found.
| Citations
| Altmetric 13
Share  
COVID-19 Vaccine

Reply to  otropogo
October 23, 2021 11:19 am

Update #2 Later in the same CBC broadcast cited above, the lovely Phoebe Amoroso reported from Tokyo that the daily Covid-19 infection rate in that city of 11.2 million today dropped to 50. Compare that to the daily new infection rate of 100 reported today for Saskatchewan, population 1.2 million. Phoebe reports the Japanese vaccination rate as 68%, while Saskatchewan’s official rate is 65%.


Where can one find the ‘science’ that reconciles these data with the ubiquitous claim that vaccination is the solution?

The main difference in Pandemic measures I’ve found between Japan and Canada is that temperature checks are widely done at the entrace of public buildings in Tokyo, and not at all in Canada.

Gunga Din
October 23, 2021 9:15 am

“Reported disasters”
I wonder if anyone has ever compared the number of reported disasters with the increase in video-capable cell phones?

Martin Cropp
October 24, 2021 1:09 am

Great report

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