Multiplying Disasters

Does it seem to you that America is experiencing more than its share of natural disasters, and that there are more extreme weather events happening today than ever before?  Turns out you’re right.  Since 1970, the number of major storms, floods, earthquakes and heatwaves that cause at least ten deaths or prompt the declaration of a national emergency has quadrupled worldwide, to around 400 a year.  China, India and America suffer the greatest number of natural disasters—not always in that order.

The accompanying chart only goes up to the unusually mild year of 2011, and therefore misses the increases over the last few years, but you can see the trend, and it’s an ominous one.  But if you look away from the blue line, listing the number of disasters, to the orange one, listing the number of deaths, the situation becomes more hopeful.  Due to better preparedness, better home and building construction and more prompt relief efforts, disasters that would have caused many deaths in the early 1900s cause proportionately fewer today.

An article in The Economist warns against complacency, however.  Urban planners, it says, have to operate on the assumption of even more extreme events.  Today, it appears, the storms and other disasters are delivering a high social cost even before they strike.

About the Author: Bob Veres has been a commentator, author and consultant in the financial services industry for more than 20 years.  Over his 20-year career in the financial services world, Mr. Veres has worked as editor of Financial Planning magazine; as a contributing editor to the Journal of Financial Planning; as a columnist and editor-at-large of Dow Jones Investment Advisor magazine; and as editor of Morningstar’s advisor web site: MorningstarAdvisor.com.

Mr. Veres has been named one of the most influential people in the financial planning profession by Investment Advisor magazine and Financial Planning magazine, was granted the NAPFA Special Achievement Award by the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors, and most recently the Heart of Financial Planning Distinguished Service Award from the Denver-based Financial Planning Association. 

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Weather-related disasters are increasing

HOUSTON is being battered by its worst storm in 50 years. Tropical Storm Harvey dumped almost 50 inches (1.27 metres) of rain in some areas in just over four days, with more set to come. That is a record for a tropical system in mainland America.

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