Of the importance of risk management

For some time now, environmental scientists have been recognizing the need for an undertaking that addresses more than just the physical hazards resulting from the transgression of planetary boundaries as discussed before.

To be specific, the social impacts of pushing beyond these boundaries are not merely limited to how people are affected by these environmental hazards, but also how such communities are socioeconomically resilient in response.

To understand the concept of risk and its corresponding response of resilience is important as it serves as the bridge in determining how communities can direct their environmental management efforts based on socioeconomic improvement.

For instance, two countries exposed to the same environmental hazards may not be experiencing the same risk under such hazards because of their respective phases of development. For a country that has sufficient financial means, a capable and properly functioning government, and an organized civil society structure, the country should be capable of investing in countermeasures against these hazards.

This capability or lack thereof is what we call vulnerability. Thus, coming from this fundamental understanding of risk, the World Risk Index of 173 countries calculates risk as the product of both exposure and vulnerability.

Risk = Exposure x Vulnerability


Risk is the interaction of both factors.

Exposure means that a certain good (e.g., population, infrastructure) is exposed to the impacts of one or more natural hazards.

Vulnerability refers to social, physical, economic, and environment-related factors that make people or systems susceptible or resilient to the harm to which one is exposed.

There are three components of vulnerability, namely susceptibility, coping capacities, and adaptive capacities, all of which share equal weights in the index.

Vulnerability = 1/3 (susceptibility) + 1/3 (coping capacities) + 1/3 (adaptive capacities)


Susceptibility is the likelihood of sustaining harm based on factors such as current state of infrastructure, nutrition, housing conditions, and economic status.

Coping capacities refer to various abilities of societies to minimize the negative impacts of environmental hazards via direct action using the resources at their disposal.

Adaptive capacities are long-term strategic processes aimed at targeting future natural events.

Examples of specific indicators under exposure and the three factors of vulnerability are as follows.


(c) World Risk Report 2013


(c) World Risk Report 2013

In the case of the Philippines, the country has been on the index as the 3rd country at most risk to environmental hazards, after small island states Vanuatu and Tongga. It has consistently been at that rank for three years since 2011.

In fact, UNU-EHS Director Jakob Rhyner said, “The World Risk Index reveals global hotspots for disaster risk in Oceania, Southeast Asia, southern Sahel and especially in Central America and the Caribbean. In these places a very high threat of natural disasters and climate change meets very vulnerable communities. [Meanwhile,] in Europe we find countries which are [also] highly exposed to hazards, for example the Netherlands and Greece, but due to their level of preparedness the actual risk is quite low.”

It is thus highly important that the Philippines aim to possess an adaptive capacity as an ultimate goal if the country is to pursue a path of constant progress.


World Risk Report 2013. Rep. Alliance Development Works, 2013. Web. 20 Jun. 2015. http://collections.unu.edu/eserv/UNU:2018/WorldRiskReport_2013_online_01.pdf

Panela, Shaira F. “PH Is 3rd Most Disaster-prone Nation in the World Again.” GMA News Online. GMA Network Inc., 16 Oct. 2012. Web. 20 Jun. 2015. http://www.gmanetwork.com/news/story/278482/scitech/science/phl-is-3rd-most-disaster-prone-nation-in-the-world-again

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