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The International Disaster Database

September 7, 2018

By Paul Homewood


Ben Pile’s post  on Nick Stern’s ransom demand mentioned that it included this chart, supposedly showing climate disasters on the increase:




It is based on the International Disaster Database, which I wrote about last year. My post is worth revisiting:






The BBC ran a piece on natural disasters yesterday, which I have to say was a bit more balanced than most of their output on climate change.

It discussed claims that the number of natural disasters has been rapidly increasing in recent decades.

They quoted UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres as saying last week:

The number of natural disasters has nearly quadrupled since 1970.

According to the BBC, similar stories have cropped up across the media, from The Economist to Fox News.

These claims apparently originate from an Oxfam report in 2007, which in turn relied on data from CRED (Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters).

To be fair to the BBC programme, it did raise question marks over the consistency of the data over time, but failed to really push this home. As even CRED readily admit, many more disasters get to be reported nowadays for all sorts of reasons. Instead the programme claimed that climate change could also be responsible for some of the increase.

So, let’s look at CRED, and how their data stacks up.

In 2004, they published this report:





It included this comment:



And continued:



[EM-DAT,  the Emergency Events Database, was launched by CRED in 1988.]



Their graph makes all of this abundantly clear:


Nobody in their right mind would believe that there were hardly any natural disasters in the first half of the 20thC. Many disasters happened in the past, but which don’t appear in the official stats.

A clue to this is that most of the apparent increase is due to small disasters:




In fact, the criteria for what constitutes a “disaster” is set at a very low level indeed:



Thousands of such small events would have escaped official notice in the past.

There is one more clue in the 2003 report:



While the number of reported disasters has remained pretty much flat from disaster agencies and governments, there was a huge increase from specialised agencies in the 1998 – 2000 period, along with a steady increase from insurance companies.

This is clear evidence that the apparent trend is solely due to how the data is collected.



Now fast forward to their Annual Report for 2006:





Note that CRED have only been publishing annual stats since 1998. Although the EM-DAT was begun in 1988, it would appear that the data can only replied upon since 1998.

We then find this graph:




So although the number of natural disasters appears to have doubled since 1987, in reality there was a big step change between 1997 and 2000.

Coincidence? I think not.

Again, nobody could seriously be expected to believe that the number of actual disasters suddenly shot up in 1998, and then stayed at that level.

We are entitled to be even more suspicious when we examine the number of victims (deaths plus affected):


The linear trend is highly misleading because of the anomalous spike in 2002. In reality, the trend is flat, and certainly does not support the message that the number of disasters is increasing.



If we look at their most recent report for 2015, we can see that the number of disasters has actually been trending downwards since 2000.




In summary, there is absolutely no evidence that natural disasters have become more common since 1970.

EM-DAT was specifically set up to provide accurate data on disasters, something that has improved as time has gone on. Prior to that, aid agencies and the like were too busy on the ground to bother with collating numbers.

EM-DAT may be a worthwhile exercise, but it should not be used for analysis of long term trends.

  1. September 7, 2018 12:27 pm

    But how many times do you have to point this out before it gets through to the MSM including the BBC?
    The just go on repeating the same untruths.

    • Sheri permalink
      September 7, 2018 1:15 pm

      Cult members keep on preaching the religion until they are “deprogrammed”.

  2. Sheri permalink
    September 7, 2018 1:15 pm

    Interesting that climate data is homogenized and all anomolous data tossed out EXCEPT when it helps the narrative, like 2002. There must be a way to create an honest trend line without that anomaly—remove it and note it’s gone or present two graphs. The lie and dishonesty is so blantantly obvious…..

    “How to Lie with Statistics” is now the mainstay of the news, using slanted stats and redefining terms to create the narrative they want. They are liars and charlatans, pure and simple. (Not that they were ever much more than that…..)

  3. frederik wisse permalink
    September 7, 2018 1:19 pm

    The UN is the biggest disaster in human history . Even to consider that big government can solve all human problems is outrageous . Society has been best served by individuals putting love and care above institutions .

  4. September 7, 2018 1:27 pm

    We have people “hooked” on crisis and disaster. When you have that they can be controlled.

  5. Broadlands permalink
    September 7, 2018 2:14 pm

    It may be obvious, but if a disaster is natural how could it be the result of anthropogenic use of carbon for energy?

    • Europeanonion permalink
      September 8, 2018 8:58 am

      As the eventual eruption of the Yellowstone volcano will put into perspective. We sit in a narrow band between a massive heat emitting star and Earth’s molten core. We are lucky to be alive.

  6. September 7, 2018 3:06 pm

    There is more to be learned from the EM-Dat database. An important study was On the relation between weather-related disaster impacts, vulnerability and climate change, by Hans Visser, Arthur C. Petersen, Willem Ligtvoet 2014

    “The trends in normalized disaster impacts show large differences between regions and weather event categories. Despite these variations, our overall conclusion is that the increasing exposure of people and economic assets is the major cause of increasing trends in disaster impacts. This holds for long-term trends in economic losses as well as the number of people affected.”

    My synopsis is

  7. September 7, 2018 4:20 pm

    I always listen to ‘More or Less’. It is one of the very few programmes on the BBC worth listening to. It very rarely strays into the realms of “climate change”, but if it didn’t come down on the side of alarmism, that would be the end of presenter Tim Harford’s career at the BBC and he would have to go back full-time to his main job at the Financial Times.

  8. manicbeancounter permalink
    September 8, 2018 12:42 am

    Whilst Wikipedia can be highly unreliable, it does collate lists of statistics.

    The ten worst natural disasters is interesting, despite being biased towards recent history.
    It is China, India and Bangladesh that dominate, with floods, earthquakes and typhoons that dominate. It is escape from grinding poverty in densely populated countries that have massively reduced the staggering death tolls. Climate change has virtually zero impact. If it has any impact, whether negative or positive, it would be impossible to detect from the much larger impacts of long-term irreversible economic growth.

  9. George Lawson permalink
    September 8, 2018 10:54 am

    What purpose is served through recording disaster figures on a comparative year on year basis?. A disaster is a disaster in any year and has no relevance whatsoever to disasters which have occurred in previous years. An earthquake or tsunami is only relevant to the year in which it occurs and nothing else.

  10. manicbeancounter permalink
    September 13, 2018 12:58 am

    There are two claims that appear to show opposite conclusions. From Figure 1 of the New Economy Climate Report (Ben Pile), occurrences of extreme weather events are increasing. From Indur Goklany, deaths from extreme weather events are decreasing.
    From the EM-DAT (The International Disaster Database) both perspectives are substantiated. I have looked at the figures and produced the following charts.
    The problem is not in the data collection (historical data fails to meet the quality control checks of recent events). It is with those who interpret that data.

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