A new study has found that education is more beneficial than economic growth in reducing the number of deaths due to climate-related disasters.
Study results from the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) have discovered that education reduces vulnerability to such natural disasters as floods, mud slides and storms while at the same time offering more adaptation for climate change.
"Education is key in reducing disaster fatalities and enhancing adaptive capacity," said Wolfgang Lutz, director of IIASA's World Population Programme.
Researchers suggest that investing in education be a priority for climate change adaptation efforts across the globe, as they believe higher education rates could lead to lower numbers of deaths in future disasters.
"Investment in human capital not only empowers people to achieve desirable socio-economic outcomes, but it also has a protective function against diverse impacts climate change may have over the coming decades," added Erich Striessnig, researcher at the IISA.
The study analyzed data concerning natural disasters across 167 countries and four decades, as well as a large number of studies from different countries and regions. Some of the case studies used show how improvements made in education offer people the skills and knowledge needed in order to be better prepared to handle natural disasters both before and after they happen.
Researchers looked at Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per person for economic growth and the number of women who complete at least a secondary school education as an indicator of education. Each of these were then cross-referenced with a database of climate-related disasters.
Results suggested that while rising GDP has not resulted in fewer deaths from natural disasters, having more women attain education has.
"Our research shows that education is more important than GDP (gross domestic product) in reducing mortality from natural disasters. We also demonstrated that under rapid development and educational expansion across the globe, disaster fatalities will be reduced substantially," added Raya Muttarak from Vienna Institute of Demography.
Climate models suggest that these natural disasters will intensify as climate change continues.
The study was performed in an effort to discover a link between education levels and fatality rates during natural disasters. Researchers believe that previously, there has been too much of a focus on how economic development reduces vulnerability to these disasters.
"Education directly improves knowledge, the ability to understand and process information, and risk perception. It also indirectly enhances socio-economic status and social capital," Muttarak said.
The UN Green Climate Fund currently sees $100 billion pledged each year for climate funding. The money from that fund is used for adaptation and mitigation in developing countries. While the funding is typically used for large infrastructure projects such as flood defenses and irrigation systems, researchers say more thought is needed concerning where to best spend the money in order to have the greatest impact.