Disaster risk

Floods in Townsville

Disasters have devastating and long lasting societal and economic impacts that are often regional and sometimes global in reach. By nature, disasters usually occur with little or no warning. This element of 'surprise' often overwhelms community and government resources and their ability to respond. The adverse societal, economic and environmental impacts often endure long after the event.

Almost half the world's natural disasters occur within the Asia Pacific region to Australia's immediate north. These disasters tend to concentrate along the geo-tectonic region called the Ring of Fire or the Circum-Pacific Belt. Hundreds of millions of people are affected with economic losses exceeding an estimated US$200 billion annually. Invariably, impoverished communities that have limited economic means and social support to recover are most severely affected. Australia is also increasingly impacted by a range of disasters,  given enhanced forecasting, technological and institutional responses.

Activities focussed on the disaster risk theme will encompass a range of areas including the cascading impacts of disasters, public health and disasters, fire and natural hazards, social cohesion and community resilience. Its interactions with energy and climate will be a key area of focus.

Our Institute's research scope encompasses the following themes.

Research scope

Culture and society »

Unless climate action and disaster response is framed in ways that engage with the world views of target audiences, cognitive dissonance can set in resulting in people continuing to ignore the problems. Given these factors, our members' research incorporates aspects of human life including art, behaviour change (eg ANU Below Zero research cluster), capacity building, communications, gender, research with Indigenous communities, psychology, resilient communities and urban systems. 

Earth sciences »

Understanding the processes that move energy and water through the ocean and atmosphere, and being able to model these processes in computer simulations, is critical for improving the accuracy of projections of future climate change. Our members' earth sciences research encompasses fields including climate science, atmospheric processes, oceans, water, the carbon cycle, the cryosphere, and geophysical conditions.

Health & security »

Our members' work broadly encompasses state and human security, health and wellbeing, human security, energy systems, infrastructure, emergency preparedness and disaster responses.

Land, water, food, energy & biodiversity nexus »

Caring for our ecosystems and conserving biodiversity threatened by climate change and other environmental stress factors such as land clearing is a challenge facing land managers and policy-makers throughout the world.

Net zero technologies & policies »

Our members' expertise includes researching and testing the technologies and policies required to shift societies to adapt to our changing climate and become greenhouse gas neutral, covering decarbonisation of every sector of our economy including energy, transport and agriculture.

Policy, economics, law and governance »

Members' work spans domestic and international responses to climate and energy policy and economics and disaster preparedness and responses, including reducing greenhouse gas emissions (mitigation) and climate change adaptation.