What’s Your Volcano Plan? Researchers Warn We’re ‘Woefully Underprepared’
A volcanic eruption could have powerful impacts on supply chains, climate and food security – but are resilience professionals taking such a threat seriously enough?
Not according to the University of Cambridge’s Centre for the Study of Existential Risk (CSER). In an article published in Nature, its researchers pointed to a misconception that the risks of major eruptions are low, and as a result both the public and private sectors are “acting recklessly” by not investing more in monitoring and response to potential disasters.
Using the example of a January eruption in Tonga – the largest ever instrumentally recorded – the researchers say that if it had gone on longer, or occurred in a critical infrastructure area, the global shockwaves could have had major consequences including related climate disasters and sudden food scarcity. Financial losses from a large magnitude eruption would be in the multi-trillions, and on a comparable scale to the pandemic.
“The Tonga eruption was the volcanic equivalent of an asteroid just missing the Earth, and needs to be treated as a wakeup call,” said CSER researcher Dr. Lara Mani, an expert in global risk. And in this case, the chances of a volcanic catastrophe are hundreds of times higher than that of an asteroid collision.
The researchers recommend taking steps to protect against such a catastrophe – in addition to increased funding, improving surveillance, manipulating magma, and stepping up public education.