The Copenhagen Consensus Centre has released a Challenge Paper on Natural Disasters, penned by Howard Kunreuther and Erwann Michel-Kerjan and distributed through CopenhagenConsensus.com
Summary. Downloadable PDF available below.
“In recent years, the world has experienced a series of truly devastating natural disasters that have taken many lives and triggered unprecedented economic losses. Hurricane Katrina in 2005 in the United States, the 2010 massive floods in Australia and the 2011 earthquake/tsunami in Japan, among other events, have demonstrated that even the most wealth and well prepared countries can experience large-scale damage and destruction when natural disasters strike.
The situation is much worse in low-income countries since they often do not have the financial means to protect their population and economy against catastrophes. In addition, building codes are lacking or not well enforced and the infrastructure is often poorly designed for disseminating information prior to a disaster, and assisting victims in a timely manner after its occurrence. The earthquake in Haiti in 2010 illustrates the challenges of an unprepared and poor country…
…First, the authors propose designing schools that can withstand earthquakes to reduce damage and the number of fatalities to children, teachers and other staff. Retrofitting the schools in all 35 most-exposed countries around the world would save the lives of 250,000 individuals over the next 50 years. Costs obviously vary from country to country: in the Solomon Islands it would cost just $36 million to retrofit schools while the cumulative total benefits are $235 million, yielding a benefit/cost ratio (BCR) greater than 6. In Afghanistan and Myanmar the costs would be $698 million and $1,570 million, respectively, with a benefit of about five times the amount invested.”