You Should Know

You Should Know

How Are Global Cities Preparing for Natural Disasters? 

by Juliana Kerr, Karen Weigert, and Vicky Stavropoulos
Cities from Mumbai to Mexico City, from San Juan to Cape Town have suffered widespread destruction due to natural disasters in 2017. Why are cities so vulnerable and what can they do to minimize the impact of hurricanes, earthquakes, typhoons, floods, heat waves, and droughts? Here’s what you should know.

How Are Cities Preparing for Natural Disasters?

by Juliana Kerr, Karen Weigert, and Vicky Stavropoulos

Cities from Mumbai to Mexico City, from San Juan to Cape Town have suffered widespread destruction due to natural disasters in 2017. Why are cities so vulnerable and what can they do to minimize the impact of hurricanes, earthquakes, typhoons, floods, heat waves, and droughts?  Here’s what you should know.
Photo: Kyodo via REUTERS
Photo: Kyodo via REUTERS
Global exposure to natural disasters doubled between 1975 and 2015, mostly due to urbanization, population growth, and socioeconomic development.
Photo: REUTERS/Punit Paranjpe
Natural disasters can result in catastrophic damage to infrastructure and loss of human lives. 2016 saw the highest worldwide costs from natural disasters since 2012. 
Photo: REUTERS/Andres Martinez Casares
Climate experts predict that extreme temperatures will increase the likelihood and intensity of weather-related natural disasters in the coming decades.
Photo: REUTERS/Pedro Nunes
Coastal cities facing rising sea levels are among the most vulnerable and costs of flood damage to large coastal cities globally could rise to $1 trillion a year if cities don’t take steps to adapt. 
Photo: REUTERS/Adrees Latif
Cities have exacerbated the negative effects of disasters by removing natural defenses such as soil and green spaces.
Photo: REUTERS/Aly Song
More people, particularly the urban poor, are living in flood-prone areas and earthquake zones that increase the likelihood of events becoming major catastrophes.
Photo: REUTERS/Dondi Tawatao
The majority of international funding goes toward reconstruction and emergency response, rather than to disaster risk reduction.
Photo: REUTERS/Jonathan Drake
Today, many innovative cities are prioritizing preparedness, along with groups such as 100 Resilient Cities, the C40, and the UN’s Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction (2015-2030).
Photo: REUTERS/Charles Platiau
Singapore is a world leader for managing heavy rainfalls, collecting rainwater through a comprehensive network of drains and canals and then treating it to be used as drinking water.
Photo: iStock/DustyFog
Some cities, like Tokyo and Chicago, have built massive underground tunnels that store water during intense rainfall to prevent flooding. 
Photo: REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon
Santiago enforces strict building codes requiring all new buildings be able to survive a 9.0 magnitude earthquake and conducts routine evacuation simulations to ensure preparedness.
Photo: REUTERS/Ivan Alvarado
Decentralized microgrids, such as in New York City, can be powered by generators, batteries or renewable sources and operate independently of the main grid during a storm or power outage.
Photo: REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz
China’s “sponge cities” will help reduce the impact of heatwaves with urban forests, green roofs, and urban wetlands to cool areas where concrete and asphalt trap heat.
Photo: REUTERS/Flavio Lo Scalzo
Over 7,400 cities worldwide have committed to reducing their greenhouse gas emissions that are released into the atmosphere and accelerate the impacts of climate change.
Photo: REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes
While hurricanes and earthquakes will still occur, cities can minimize their devastation with resilient infrastructure, sustainable policies, and inclusive urban planning.
Photo: iStock/silverjohn
What innovative ways can cities prepare for, prevent, or most effectively respond to natural disasters? How can local, national, and international agencies better coordinate to improve resilience and security?
 
Watch experts discuss these questions at the 2017 Chicago Forum on Global Cities and contribute your insights at the 2018 Forum.
What innovative ways can cities prepare for, prevent, or most effectively respond to natural disasters? How can local, national, and international agencies better coordinate to improve resilience and security?

Watch experts discuss these questions at the 2017 Chicago Forum on Global Cities and contribute your insights at the 2018 Forum.
Photo: REUTERS/Carlos Barria

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©2017 Chicago Council on Global Affairs