Geology for Global Development

Disaster Risk Reduction

Reducing the Risk of Future Disasters

GfGD welcomes the release of the UK Government Office for Science Foresight Report into “Reducing the Risks of Future Disasters: Priorities for decision makers. The report has been specially commissioned to recognise the growing need for good disaster and risk reduction (DRR) science.

The report describes how the growing threat of natural hazards to increasingly vulnerable communities worldwide can be lessened using better processes of decision making, through the integration of information provided by scientific developments. This course of action will subsequently save lives and resources in developing countries.

Over the next 30 years the risk of disasters is expected to increase as a result of amplifying factors, primarily expanding populations in high-risk regions and a warming climate. Through strategic investment in scientific research, we can expect to improve our ability to predict, understand and manage hazards.

We support the decision by the UK Government and Department for International Development to invest in developing and improving this field through the production of this report. We are particularly encouraged by the report’s focus on the improved use of science and evidence within disaster and risk reduction; it is important that the latest geoscientific knowledge on hazards is understood by policy makers, especially in developing countries where populations may be more vulnerable. At the same time, we feel it is prudent to recognise the limitations and uncertainties of DRR science and to ensure we are sensitive to and inclusive of indigenous knowledge.

We feel that for hazards research to move forward effectively, we need to strengthen communication between scientists, policy makers and the affected communities. In light of the recommendations in the Foresight report, we offer some thoughts on how communication can be best fostered:

  • There is a need for training in the communication of science to include multi-disciplinary and cross-cultural approaches.
  • Exchange and overlap between geoscientists and development practitioners should continue to be encouraged.
  • Undergraduate and Master’s courses should work to place natural hazards into a wider context

You can read our official response to the report from our advocacy team, and read a summary of our response in our press release.

We also hosted a twitter discussion about the report, which has been documented using storify. Our discussion focused on the meaning of some of the terms in the document: vulnerability, hazards and disasters, which are often misused. We also asked broad questions that we have to address following of the Foresight report’s findings: What kinds of collaborative efforts can you see happening in the next 20 years relating to DRR? Do you think scientific literacy on vulnerability is increasing? What can GfGD do to enhance this? How ready are the scientific community to incorporate local and indigenous knowledge into their work, hazard analysis and hazard assessments? Is this valued and used currently, and if not why not? We welcome your continued contributions to this discussion through twitter, facebook or blog post comments.

We believe that geoscience can make a significant contribution to DRR. Further steps need to be taken to ensure that the scientific tools and models being developed can be used to their best effect by other stakeholders. Geology for Global Development will be working to play their full part in addressing these challenges, and preparing young geoscientists to contribute to DRR.


The full report can be accessed here:

An executive summary of the report can be accessed here:

Our official response:

GfGD Foresight ‘Reducing Risk of Future Disasters’ Response

Our press release:

Our storify documenting our twitter discussion:


Launch of Foresight Report: Reducing the Risk of Future Disasters.

Today the UK government released their highly anticipated foresight report into “Reducing the Risk of Future Disasters”. This report, led by the UK government’s chief scientific advisor, Sir John Beddington, looks at disasters in developing countries that have resulted from natural hazards.

The aim has been ‘to provide advice to decision makers on how science can inform the difficult choices and priorities for investing in disaster risk reduction, so that the diverse impacts of future disasters can be effectively reduced.’

The GfGD team look forward to reading through the report and discussing it’s findings. We will be hosting our first twitter discussion about the report on Saturday 1st December, at 3pm. Please join us to feed in your initial thoughts about the report. You can find us on @Geo_Dev, using the hashtag #Foresight.

We look forward to hearing from you!


Friday Photo (54) – Debris Flow Channel, Gansu Province, China

Southern Gansu Province, China: Poorly Maintained Debris Flow Channel

This channel is designed to transport debris flow material away from the road, thus preventing a major road blockage. The poor design and maintenance of the channel, however, is resulting in material coming down the channel and then being pushed back on to the road.

(c) Geology for Global Development, 2012

Workshop Advertisement: Dynamics and Impact of Interacting Natural Hazards

The workshop below may be of interest to some of our readers undertaking research into natural hazards, or working within the disaster risk reduction community. Please note that this workshop is not organised by Geology for Global Development:


 An interdisciplinary workshop on current research and future directions

14th‒15th February 2013

To be held at: University College London, London, UK

Convened by University College London, King’s College London, and the University of Southampton. 

Many populated areas are affected by more than one natural hazard, such as volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, landslides, tsunamis, floods, storms, and wildfires. Different hazards can overlap in time and location, so that the total impact on a community is increased by interactions between the hazards. Example of interaction types include: 

  • One hazard triggering another or a cascade of hazards (e.g., an earthquake triggering a landslide, which dams a river and causes flooding).
  • One hazard changing the probability of another occurring (e.g., a wildfire removing vegetation and increasing the probability of landslides during storms).
  • Temporal changes in vulnerability during successive hazards (e.g., the damage to buildings during an earthquake may increase both the building and human population’s’ vulnerability to subsequent hazards, such as hurricanes or tsunamis).

Hazard assessments tend to focus on the impact of single hazards and so overlook the cumulative impact of interacting hazards. To advance current methods of assessment it is, therefore, essential to improve the characterisation and modelling of hazard interactions and their impacts. The results should be of immediate value to governmental and non-governmental agencies and to business.

This two-day workshop will bring together field practitioners, researchers and representatives from the academic, humanitarian, development, governmental and business sectors in order to evaluate the practical applications of current research and to define key directions for future investigations into the interaction of natural hazards. Although all relevant research is welcome, specific themes will be:

  • Methods for measuring or analysing the interactions between hazards
  • Evaluating and mitigating the impact of hazard interactions
  • Understanding temporal and spatial changes in vulnerability
  • Strategies for future interdisciplinary research in hazard interactions

We invite abstracts of no more than 300 words for oral or poster presentations in the specific themes above. Details and formatting guidelines for the submission of abstracts can be found on the conference website (details below). Abstracts may include a key figure or table. We anticipate that the conference will include a range of session types, and therefore the number of oral contributions may be restricted in order to encourage extended discussion. The registration process allows you to submit “Points for Discussion” which will be used to provide a framework for discussion and other interactive sessions.

The deadline for registration and the submission of abstracts and discussion points is 14th December 2012. There is a provisional limit of 40 places. To register, please complete the registration form.

For further information and details, please see the workshop website.