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Australia’s Townsville floods demonstrate need for better disaster planning

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ACCORDING to reinsurance company Swiss Re’s preliminary estimates, total global losses for natural and man-made disasters last year amounted to approximately US$155 billion and caused about 11,000 deaths.

The report says the losses from these events in 2018 highlight the increasing vulnerability of concentration of humans and property values on coastlines and in the urban-wildlife interface.

Climate change has a role in the increasing impact and severity of disasters. Hotter temperatures can exacerbate prolonged droughts which increase the risk of wildfires, strengthen cyclones, and increase extreme rainfall events.

SEE ALSO: This is what a tsunami in Sydney would look like

The past four years were the hottest since global temperature records began according to the UN’s World Meteorological Organisation, an analysis it says is a “clear sign of continuing long-term climate change”.

There’s an increased risk that disasters will become larger, more complex, and occur simultaneously in regions that haven’t experienced these events previously or at the same frequency or intensity.

As Tony Press recently argued on The Strategist, this means that Australia needs to get its act together by clearly articulating “national climate research objectives and align(ing) them with formal arrangements and collaborations that bring together our key climate institutions and researchers.”

This handout photo from the Queensland Fire and Emergency Services (QFES) taken on February 3, 2019 and received on February 4, 2019 shows flooding in Townsville. Source: Handout / QUEENSLAND FIRE AND EMERGENCY SERVICES / AFP

So what can Australia do to beef up its tools to cope with the increasing likelihood of natural disasters while avoiding the associated risk of cascading failures in vulnerable communities?

First, while the country has a plethora of disaster management plans, we need to examine to what extent these set out largely aspirational goals. Given the extreme threats posed by climate change,........

© Asian Correspondent