Chapter 13 - Data Challenges Limit Our Global Understanding of Humanitarian Disasters Triggered by Climate Extremes


Compared to other natural disasters, climate-related extremes like droughts and heat waves have the largest impacts on human well-being at the global scale. Given that droughts are expected to intensify over the next decades, that other extreme events may happen more frequently, and that global population growth already now leads to a higher exposure and humanity faces major challenges. A fundamental question related to these critical global developments is whether increasing wealth levels could partly offset this phenomenon. In order to investigate this question systematically and at the global level we need to consolidate multiple data sets that are required in the respective global empirical analyses. In this contribution we review this challenge. We argue that an objective assessment of trends in global disaster risk due to climate extremes requires (1) accurate regional disaster impact data of extreme events, (2) local demographic and socioeconomic indicators, for example, on poverty, inequality, and education to understand the societal vulnerability, and (3) high-level information on the exact spatiotemporal dynamics of the climate extreme, its return-time probability, and its impacts on ecosystem services. We outline a path toward an integrated assessment of natural disasters that requires bridging the wide disciplinary gaps to understand the full cascade from climate extremes to human impacts.

Climate Extremes and Their Implications for Impact and Risk Assessment