Education makes people less vulnerable to natural disasters such as floods, landslides, and storms that are expected to intensify with climate change, according to new research from the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) in Austria.
Published in the journal Science, the study argues that investing in empowerment through universal education should be an essential element in climate change adaptation efforts, which until now focus mostly on engineering projects.
Drawing on natural disaster data for 167 countries over the past four decades, the study shows that educational expansion could be a better investment in protecting people from the impacts than conventional investments such as building sea walls, dams, irrigation systems, and other infrastructure – particularly in regions where the exact consequences of climate change are still unclear.
“Education is key in reducing disaster fatalities and enhancing adaptive capacity,” says co-author Wolfgang Lutz, Director of IIASA’s World Population Program,.
While previous research has shown that education plays a major role in development, including poverty alleviation and economic growth, this latest study shows that in regard to climate change adaptation, education provides skills that are useful for surviving and coping with disaster, such as the ability to understand and process information or perceive risk.
“Education is more important than GDP in reducing mortality from natural disasters”, explains co-author and IIASA researcher Raya Muttarak.
Photo credit: UN Photo/Evan Schneider