The last three years will be remembered for deadly climate-related disasters, among them the great floods in Thailand in 2011, Hurricane Sandy in the United States in 2012 and Super Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines in 2013. The message for 2014 is clear: we must do much more to prepare for disasters before they strike and not only react after the fact.
The immediate priority after a disaster occurs is relief and recovery for the affected. At the same time, a crucial lesson is to recover with care and to rebuild better in anticipation of future events. But such preparedness lags because these disasters still tend to be viewed as one-off acts of nature rather than systematic recurrences.
Three factors make for more frequent repeats of these events globally: people's exposure, their vulnerability and the intensity of the hazards. Rising populations have meant that more people are living in harm's way, for example, in low-lying coastal areas.
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