Natural Hazards, Climate Change, and Adaptation: Persistent Questions and Answers


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South Australian Geographical Journal

Royal Geographical Society of South Australia

Subject: Environmental Studies, Geography, Geosciences, Planning & Development, Political Science, Urban Studies


ISSN: 1030-0481





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Natural Hazards, Climate Change, and Adaptation: Persistent Questions and Answers


Citation Information : South Australian Geographical Journal. Volume 111, Pages 43-55, DOI:

License : (CC BY 4.0)

Published Online: 14-August-2018



In research on risk and hazard, three central questions seem to persist: What should people and societies worry about? Why do people live and work in areas subject to repeated hazards? How is it that they survive and even prosper in such areas? Les Heathcote and I were part of an early effort to address these questions globally across the range of natural hazards. working together on a study that contrasted the agricultural drought hazard in Australia with that of Tanzania. From our comparison and other national studies, we learned that developing countries had much greater hazard deaths rates and industrialized countries had much larger economic losses. Adding in the costs of adaptation effort to prevent these losses gave us an overall
social cost, and as the percentage of per capita GNP current at the time, the burden on the developing countries was much greater than that of the industrialized countries. Now forty years later, human-induced climate change that we did not consider in our original study, will almost surely bring more drought to some areas, more floods to others, and possibly more and greater cyclones. In this paper I examine global trends and causes of extreme climatological, weather, and disaster events, since our original study. These events are growing and have multiple causes of growing population, and economic wealth, as well as weather and climate. I then consider trends in adaptation especially as it is addressed to climate change. For a conclusion, I briefly reconsider the persistent questions. In looking back over my half century of research on risk and hazard (Kates 2001), three central questions seem to persist: What should people and societies worry about? Why do people live and work in areas subject to repeated hazards? How is it that they survive and even prosper in such areas?


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