- Comparing disasters back in time must take technology into
account. Disasters in the past didn't have the benefit of mobile
phones, satellites or even rapid road transport.
- A rule of thumb finds if a modern disaster had happened when the
population of the world was 1 bn less would have resulted in about
3.8 times as many deaths.
- A little table shows that e.g. 150 people killed in the current
European floods is equivalent to 1.7 mn people killed in the
18th century or about the size of the Yellow River flood disaster
(2 mn people killed) in the 19th cent.
Just a short note on the perennial hillbilly fallacy of comparing
deaths for events now with those in the (usually) distant past.
Direct comparisons ignore progress because hillbillies usually don't
even see progress. Everyone "always" used cellphones or could drive
1000 miles or knew 10 days in advance what the weather was gunna do.
But in reality land we know that technology and organisation has
benefits. Which is why most of society is working to advance it.
Looking back in time we can roughly determine that for each 1 bn in
world population deaths from mass disasters declined by around a
factor of 3.8 because of developments in a whole series of things
including communications, hospitals, disaster forecasting, transport >infrastructure, disaster preparedness and response,
We can make a little table looking back, lining up 1 death in a
disaster in the 21st cent with an equivalent death toll at various
times in the past as the world population grew.
Year WorldPop DisasterDeaths
2020 8 bn 1.0
2012 7 3.8
1999 6 14.4
1987 5 54.7
1974 4 207
1959 3 792
1927 2 3010
1762 1 11438
But this measure the death of 150 people in the European floods is--
equivalent to the deaths of 1.7 mn people in 1762. Comparable
with the Yellow River disaster of 1887 when an estimated 2 mn
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