The devastation caused by the disastrous 9.0-magnitude earthquake in Japan and the potential risks from radiation leaks at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant once again highlight the urgent need to establish a global disaster emergency relief mechanism.
The frequent incidence of natural disasters worldwide, with many engendered by greenhouse gas emissions, environmental deterioration and ecological retrogression, as the result of the increased use of carbon-intensive energy, has heightened people’s awareness of the impact of climate change and environmental degradation on the global economy and security.
According to a report released by the United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction in January 2010, a total of 3,852 major natural disasters occurred worldwide from 2000 to 2009, resulting in more than 780,000 deaths and direct economic losses of $960 billion. Asian countries were the hardest hit.
The impact of both geological and climate calamities always go far beyond the directly affected regions. The epicenter of the latest earthquake was located near the east coast of Honshu, Japan’s pivotal industrial belt where its iron, petroleum, manufacturing and nuclear industries are located and is thus expected to have enormous repercussions on the world’s third largest economy. As a major world exporter, Japan’s slowed production and exports of iron, metal materials as well as auto engines and some key industrial products will affect the nascent global economic recovery.
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Zhang Monan is an economics researcher with the State Information Center.