Worldwide Disaster Trends for the Last 100 or so Years

Some of my friends are in the habit of saying with doom laden glares and heavyset jowls that the end times are drawing near, we are in the last days, Jesus is coming back soon and other things like that. My initial reaction is usually that the things that are happening around us have been happening for centuries. Sure society is changing, sometimes it seems mostly for the worst, but many societies throughout history have undergone growth and decay, including the Romans, Egyptians, Incans, Chinese and many more. Famine, flood and fire have always been with us. So I say to myself, I have to keep a level head and not let the exercise of my faith become paralysed by Jesus-is-coming-back-tomorrow paranoia. Let common sense prevail I say!

But recently I stumbled across the International Disaster Database, which gave me reason to pause. Browsing through its website I came across a list of graphs showing trends in natural disasters for the past 108 years – from 1900 to 2008 – and the graphs show some very interesting data.

In the last 30 years or so the number of recorded natural disasters has grown almost exponentially. I understand that this can probably be explained by the fact that the worldwide disaster reporting infrastructure has improved exponentially over the last 30-50 years and hence the number of reported disasters has been more accurately tracked in more recent times, but I have no information to back this idea up. The agency which records this data was only established in Belgium in 1971 so data prior to that date was probably not as scrupulously collected. However it still makes you sit back and take stock of things.

But, in fact, the director of CRED which is responsible for the International Disaster Database website is on the public record stating that natural disasters have indeed increased over the last ten years: “The number of events have gone up very, very dramatically”. She works with this data every day and so she should be in a position to make a statement like this accurately, in spite of any data collection skewing which might have occurred over the last 108 years.

So natural disasters have indeed been on the rise, especially in the last 10 years. But why? Is it because of climate change? This question has already been asked answered in this TIME article. The answer? No, climate change has not been the major cause of the increase in natural disasters in the recent past. In fact earthquakes have been the most damaging natural disaster in this period, and climate change does not cause earthquakes.

The Bible says that in the last days

There will be great earthquakes, famines and pestilences in various places, and fearful events and great signs from heaven…when you see these things happening, you know that the kingdom of God is near. Luke 21:8-36

Maybe I should start to take more notice of my friends with the doom laden glares and heavyset jowls.

Graph copied with permission from EM-DAT: The OFDA/CRED International Disaster Database – – Université catholique de Louvain – Brussels – Belgium.


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