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Scenario Best Practices: Developing Scenarios for Disaster Risk Reduction

Univ. of Cambridge
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The Global Risk Landscape

Major disasters are inflicting greater societal and economic impacts over time. Global population growth and economic development are driving an increase in the number of people, systems, and structures exposed to hazards, and the value of assets and investments with the potential for loss. Concurrently, climate change is forcing an increase in the frequency and magnitude of certain extreme weather events, as well as chronic trend risks including water stress, sea level rise, and environmental degradation. Novel and unprecedented anthropogenic threats (including technological, geopolitical, and financial hazards) also continue to emerge and intensify.
These risks are connected with and exacerbated by environmental and social drivers, including climate change, globalisation, and the digitisation of economies. As a result, the global risk landscape is growing more complex and interconnected. The potential for disasters to cascade through systems is increasing, and the impacts of events have greater geographical and temporal reach. Existing and emerging risks present huge uncertainty about the future, and so demand new and improved strategies to reduce disaster risk and build resilience.

Disaster risk reduction (DRR) is the ambition and practice of reducing disaster risks through systematic efforts to address the causal factors of disasters, for example by reducing hazard exposure and the vulnerability of people and assets, environmental management, and improving preparedness. Thus, DRR incorporates management, mitigation, and preparedness disciplines, but also embodies sustainable development – which, to be achieved must reduce disaster risk. Conversely, unsound development practices increase disaster risk and the potential for loss.
DRR involves all dimensions of society, including various parts of the public sector at international to local levels, and the private sector. However, the DRR community often lack the tools and expertise to understand the potential impacts of disasters, and of the efficacy of decisions to address them. One means of addressing uncertainty about the future is using scenario analysis, which is now a widely advocated and implemented practice in this domain but remains a challenge to many stakeholders without experience in scenario development.