Head of the School of Geographical Sciences, University of Bristol, UK

Member of the Royal Society working group on ‘Resilience to extreme weather’.







16:30-18:00 6 NOVEMBER

End-to-end scientific support for Disaster Risk Reduction

The protection of human populations from natural disasters is recognised as an international priority, yet the mounting challenge from climate change, biodiversity loss, growth in population and consumption, and increasing inequality is putting our future wellbeing at risk. In this presentation I will discuss the sustained role of science in informing the Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) process - from influencing discussions before agreements are adopted to informing implementation plans in the post-agreement period. This is particularly timely as 2015 has seen not only the adoption of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, but also a number of other major international agreements that have important implications for natural disasters. These include the UN Sustainable Development Goals and the UNFCCC climate deal due to be negotiated in Paris in December. Science has a critical role to play in aligning the purpose, design and implementation of these frameworks because disasters, climate change and sustainable development are all inextricably linked. To take a hypothetical and simplistic example, Sustainable Development Goal 3.3 concerns reducing the incidence of malarial disease yet doing so may lead to the draining of wetlands which could increase risk from flooding.

To address these concerns this presentation draws upon research conducted for the Royal Society’s recent ‘Resilience to extreme weather’ report which demonstrates how science can information all stages of the DRR process and highlights many examples of good practice. In particular, the report emphasises the following critical needs:

1. Evidence needs to be heart of both the DRR process and the international frameworks which impact it.

2. Scientists need to ensure that evidence is developed and presented in ways suitable for users' needs.

3. New technology and methods for DRR need to be available to everyone, not just to wealthy developed nations.

4. Involving those who make and implement policy in research at an early stage is essential to ensure effective outcomes.

5. Research funders should encourage collaborations and ongoing dialogue between producers and users of knowledge.

Science has already contributed much to the reduction of disaster risk, yet our report eloquently demonstrates that considerable further progress can yet be achieved.