Mankind is becoming ever more susceptible to natural disasters, largely as a consequence of population growth and globalization. It is likely that in the future, we will experience several disasters per year that kill more than 10 000 people. A calamity with a million casualties is just a matter of time. This situation is mainly a consequence of increased vulnerability. Climate change may also be affecting the frequency of extreme weather events as well as the vulnerability of coastal areas due to sea-level rise. Disastrous outcomes can only increase unless better ways are found to mitigate the effects through improved forecasting and warning, together with more community preparedness and resilience. There are particular difficulties with extreme events, which can affect several countries, while the largest events can have global consequences. The hazards of supervolcanic eruptions and asteroid impacts could cause global disaster with threats to civilization and deaths of billions of people. Although these are very rare events, they will happen and require consideration. More frequent and smaller events in the wrong place at the wrong time could have very large human, environmental and economic effects. A sustained effort is needed to identify places at risk and take steps to apply science before the events occur.
- © 2006 The Royal Society