Terrestrial Hazards

Part of the Springer Praxis Books book series (PRAXIS)


The previous chapter reviewed the hazards of cosmic origins that may threaten living species on Earth. Fortunately, none of them has ever affected human beings or been responsible for a major catastrophe in the past 100,000 years. To the contrary, earthly hazards have clearly left their marks in the history of our civilizations, causing deaths measured by several hundred millions. A distinction must be made between hazards caused by living organisms, at the first rank of which are human beings, and those caused by the ‘inert’ world or natural hazards which are due to the physical perturbations affecting the solid Earth, the oceans and the atmosphere. In the first category we find wars, which are a fact of humans only, and diseases, both communicable and non-communicable. In the second, we find the seismic-related hazards (volcanoes, earthquakes and tsunamis) and climate-related hazards (storms, floods/landslides and droughts). Figure 4.1 compares the mortality from all earthly catastrophes that occurred in the 20th century — the century for which statistics are more accurate —and places them in perspective. The greatest challenge for all societies will be to predict and manage the disasters that these hazards may provoke in the future.


Tropical Cyclone Seismic Wave Subduction Zone Volcanic Eruption Tectonic Plate 


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© Praxis Publishing Ltd. 2008

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