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Interconnected Disaster Risks Report 2023

  • 26 Oct 2023
  • 11 min read

For Prelims: UN Interconnected Disaster Risks Report 2023, Climate change, Space debris, Wet-bulb temperature, Floods, Renewable energy sources, Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030, The Climate Risk and Early Warning Systems, Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure Society, National Disaster Management Plan

For Mains: Major Findings of the Interconnected Disaster Risks Report 2023, Major Drivers of Increasing Disaster Risks.

Source: HT

Why in News?

Recently, the release of the Interconnected Disaster Risks Report 2023 has thrust the world's interdependence into the spotlight, warning of impending global tipping points and underlining the critical need for immediate action to prevent potential catastrophic consequences.

What are the Major Findings of the Interconnected Disaster Risks Report 2023?

  • About: The UN Interconnected Disaster Risks Report is an annual science-based report released by the United Nations University- Institute for Environment and Human Security (UNU-EHS), (first published in 2021).
    • The report analyses several concrete examples of disasters each year and explains how they are inter- connected with each other and with human actions.
    • The report illustrates how seemingly stable systems can gradually deteriorate until a critical threshold is crossed, resulting in catastrophic consequences.
      • It introduces the concept of "risk tipping points," moments when socio ecological systems can no longer buffer risks and face a heightened risk of catastrophic impacts.

Note

The United Nations University (UNU) is the academic arm of the United Nations and acts as a global think tank. The mission of the Institute for Environment and Human Security (UNU-EHS) is to carry out cutting edge research on risks and adaptation related to environmental hazards and global change. The institute is based in Bonn, Germany.

  • Tipping Points: The report highlights that the world is approaching six environmental tipping points -
    • Groundwater Depletion: Groundwater stored in aquifers is vital for over 2 billion people, with 70% used for agriculture.
      • However, 21 of the world's major aquifers are depleting faster than they can recharge.
      • Aquifer water often took thousands of years to accumulate and is essentially non-renewable.
      • Over-extraction has occurred in some areas, like Saudi Arabia, depleting over 80% of its aquifer. This forces reliance on imported crops, posing challenges for food security.
      • Certain areas within the Indo-Gangetic basin in India have already crossed the critical threshold of groundwater depletion, and the entire northwestern region is expected to face severely limited groundwater availability by 2025.
    • Accelerating Species Extinctions: Human activities like land use changes, overexploitation, and climate change have accelerated species extinction.
      • Current extinction rates due to human influence are hundreds of times higher than normal.
      • Extinction can trigger a chain reaction, causing the collapse of ecosystems.
    • Mountain Glacier Melting: Glaciers are vital water sources, but they are melting at double the rate due to global warming.
      • Between 2000 and 2019, glaciers lost 267 gigatons of ice per year. We are projected to lose around 50% of glaciers by 2100, even with limited warming.
      • 90,000+ glaciers of the Himalayas, Karakoram and Hindu Kush mountains are at risk, and so are the nearly 870 million people that rely on them.
    • Space Debris: Satellites are crucial for weather monitoring, communication, and safety, but the growing number of satellites in space is causing a space debris problem.
      • Only 25% of objects in orbit are active satellites; the rest are non-functional debris.
        • There are about 130 million smaller, untrackable debris pieces.
      • These objects move at high speeds and pose a collision risk to operational satellites, creating a hazardous orbital environment.
    • Unbearable Heat: Climate change is causing more deadly heat waves. High temperatures and humidity make it hard for the body to cool down.
      • When the "wet-bulb temperature" exceeds 35°C for over six hours, it can lead to organ failure and brain damage. This has already occurred in places like Jacobabad, Pakistan.
        • Also, during a 2023 heatwave in India, wet-bulb temperatures went above 34°C.
      • It is expected to affect over 70% of the global population by 2100.
    • Uninsurable Future: Frequent severe weather is causing a sevenfold increase in damages since the 1970s, with USD 313 billion in losses in 2022.
      • Insurance costs are rising due to climate change, making coverage unaffordable for many.
      • Some insurers are leaving high-risk areas, leading to regions being labeled "uninsurable."
        • For example, in Australia, about 520,940 homes may become uninsurable by 2030 due to increased flood risk.
  • Interconnectedness: Climate change, driven by increased greenhouse gas emissions, acts as a common driver of tipping points. This includes glacier melting, extreme weather events, and shifts in the insurance risk landscape.
    • These interconnected environmental issues can trigger feedback loops, such as rising sea levels from glacier melt, intensifying coastal flooding and elevating the demand for disaster insurance.
    • Ultimately, these tipping points have significant socioeconomic consequences.

What are the Major Drivers of Increasing Disaster Risks?

  • Urbanisation: Rapid Urbanization often occurs without adequate planning and infrastructure development.
    • As cities grow, more people and property become exposed to hazards like floods and earthquakes, increasing disaster vulnerability.
  • Environmental Degradation: Deforestation, soil erosion, and pollution weaken natural ecosystems and reduce their ability to act as buffers against disasters. Environmental degradation amplifies the impacts of hazards.
  • Inadequate and Inefficient Infrastructure: Insufficiently built or maintained infrastructure, such as bridges, buildings, and roads, can crumble during disasters, leading to significant economic and social losses.
  • Poor Land Use Planning: Inadequate land use planning can result in communities settling in high-risk areas like floodplains or wildfire-prone regions. This contributes to increased exposure to disasters.
  • Water Management Issues: Mismanagement of water resources can lead to droughts, water scarcity, and flooding.
    • These issues can have far-reaching consequences for food security, economies, and communities.
  • Global Interconnectedness: As the world becomes more interconnected, disruptions in one area can have cascading effects globally.
    • This interconnectedness can propagate the economic and social impact of disasters.

What does the Report Recommend as Solutions to Mitigate Disaster Risk?

  • UN Interconnected Disaster Risks Report 2023 uses the four-category framework to classify and prioritize solutions for addressing disaster risks.
    • Avoid-Delay: These are actions that aim to prevent disasters by slowing them down using current methods.
      • For example, implementing strict building codes and land-use regulations to prevent major damage from disasters.
    • Avoid-Transform: These actions focus on preventing disasters by making significant changes in how things are done.
      • For example, transitioning from fossil fuel-based energy production to renewable energy sources (like solar and wind) to avoid the risks associated with climate change
    • Adapt-Delay: These actions prepare us to handle disasters by buying more time to respond.
      • For example, developing advanced early warning systems for tsunamis to buy time for people to evacuate and prepare for the disaster.
    • Adapt-Transform: These actions involve making big changes to how we do things to adapt to disasters.
      • For example, implementing coastal zoning policies and restoring natural barrier ecosystems (like mangroves) to adapt to rising sea levels and transform coastal protection strategies.

What are the Initiatives for Disaster Risk Reduction?

UPSC Civil Services Examination Previous Year Question (PYQ)

Mains:

Q. Discuss the recent measures initiated in disaster management by the Government of India departing from the earlier reactive approach. (2020)

Q. Vulnerability is an essential element for defining disaster impacts and its threat to people. How and in what ways can vulnerability to disasters be characterized? Discuss different types of vulnerability with reference to disasters. (2019)

Q. Describe various measures taken in India for Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) before and after signing ‘Sendai Framework for DRR (2015-30)’. How is this framework different from ‘Hyogo Framework for Action, 2005’? (2018)

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