10 Disasters Waiting To Happen

10 Disasters Waiting To Happen 10 ‘The Big One’ The west coast of America is no stranger to an earthquake or two

But while it’s one thing for a little rumble, and quite a bit worse for a seismic event to shake a city’s foundations, there’s something else entirely on the horizon that could wrought untold destruction: The Big One According to a 2006 paper by Yuri Fialko in the journal Nature, the San Andreas Fault line is overdue for a quake of historic proportions Literally Ruptures have occurred roughly every 150 years or so over time, with the northern and central parts of the fault having seen them as recently as 1857 and 1906 But it’s been more than 250 years for the southern portion, so there’s more built up tension there than a bad marriage

Predicted at 78 magnitude on the Richter scale, this catastrophically late bloomer could cause around 2,000 deaths in California and more than 200 BILLION dollars in damages Even worse, recent lower magnitude tremors in California showed up just how unprepared the state is for the big one The majority of people don’t have emergency supplies and only around 20% of people are insured In other words, we’ve got the makings of a real-life Dwayne Johnson movie on our hands, but the trailer just says “coming soon”

9 Metsamor Nuclear Power Plant Nuclear power is a vital part of modern life for people all over the world, but it does come along with a serious, albeit manageable risk That risk has never been more visible than in Ukraine during the Chernobyl crisis, which showed the world just how threatening a failure at a nuclear plant could be But less well known is the danger posed by Armenia’s Metsamor facility While not the same model as Chernobyl, Metsamor actually uses the earliest design of nuclear plant created in the Soviet Union, and the only one outside of Russia that’s still in operation

But what makes it such a concern is that it sits in one of the most seismically active regions on the planet, meaning an overly close earthquake could lead to a serious failure Given it's just 20 miles or 36 kilometres from the 1 million strong capital of Yerevan, you can see the risks Plans are underway to replace the plant with a less catastrophically dangerous one, but it’s the unique position of providing 40% of the country’s energy As such, it can’t be decommissioned until the replacement’s up and running, whenever that is 8

Dam Collapse Despite being the crux of at least 40% of action movie villains’ plans, Dam collapse isn’t just some fantastical Hollywood catastrophe There’s actually a real risk of Dams around the world failing and leaving thousands of people at risk Right now, the planet is full of dams built before 1900, which are naturally going to have lower standards of protection and less developed technology to do the protecting For example, we know that they’re designed to deal with so-called ‘one-in-one-hundred year’ flood events Well, floods of that level are occurring around the world roughly every 5 years

I won’t bore you with why, but let’s just say it rhymes with… uh, primate strange I don’t know, moving on Globally, there have been 40 dam collapses since the year 2000, which have caused hundreds of deaths Most recently in 2019, the British town of Whaley Bridge had to be evacuated after flooding led to what the Environment Agency called “real risk of collapse” With flooding events already happening four times more often than in 1980, that risk is only going to keep mounting, as will its potential death toll

7 Global Disease Epidemic In case you hadn’t noticed, human beings are pretty fragile All kinds of things can wind up killing us, from a stubbed toe to a common cold And on a not unrelated note, the world is actually surprisingly vulnerable devastation at the hands of disease According to Boston University professor Jonathan Quick, an airborne disease could reach 25,000 people in one week, 700,000 in a month, and 300 million people over 6 months in EVERY urban centre

Tech-pioneer turned uber-charity man Bill Gates estimates the likelihood of a “catastrophic epidemic” inside his lifetime, so probably over the next 30 years, at more than 50% According to Quick, this is more likely than it should be, mostly because of fear, complacency and financial self-interest For example, there are more immediately useful ways to spend government money than on preparing for a plague that may or may not happen, even though that makes the ‘may’ a lot more likely, and that’s especially true because the poor are the most likely victims but likely can’t afford immunisation I guess all I could suggest is becoming a hermit? At least that gives you time to watch the Alltime10s back catalogue 6

Tower Block Collapse It’s pretty fair to say that construction methods have gotten more advanced over the years But that does mean that there are some pretty dangerous skeletons in the architectural closet dating back a few decades Take the UK for example After the tower block safety made the headlines due to a number of deaths in 2017, an independent audit found that nearly 600 high-rise buildings containing as many as 41,000 apartments were, and still are at risk of structural failure That’s because of a flawed construction method employed in the 1960s and 70s called the “large panel system”, which have now degraded to the point where residents can fit their entire arms through cracks in the walls

If one of these apartments was to experience a fire or gas explosion, there’s a high likelihood that it would collapse the ENTIRE building That already happened in 1968, when a gas explosion cascaded to destroy the whole south-east corner of a tower block This is in the 5th largest economy in the world by the way, and there are tens of thousands of apartments just one fire away from dropping to the ground Just imagine how bad it could be elsewhere 5

Demographic Time Bomb So I’ve got some good news and some bad news for you The good news is that people around the world are living longer than ever The bad news is that less and less people are having kids This trend is generally called the “demographic time bomb” since eventually, many developed countries are going to reach a point where there simply aren’t enough able-bodied people to take care of the old and infirm That means lots of older people dying before their time

Japan is the headline example, with both a skyrocketing average age AND a plummeting population In the year 2000, 15% of the country was over 85 By 2070 that’s going to reach around 9% or roughly 81 million people

That’s true of the US too, whose birth rate has dropped from 212 to 176 in the last decade, and the average birthing age in some parts of the country is as high as 32 Or take Finland, where there are actually more births than deaths annually, and the gap is widening each year So we better get working on those AI carers, so long as it doesn’t get all I, Robot

4 Global Recession Ah, who can forget 2008? Katy Perry broke her way into pop culture, shutter shades blighted faces across the land… oh, and the world suffered most crippling financial collapse in 8 decades That crash made living conditions considerably worse worldwide, and led to millions of deaths due to starvation, healthcare cuts and suicides And now, there are widespread predictions among economists that 2020 could see ANOTHER financial crisis At least there’s still Katy Perry

That’s largely on the back of the ongoing trade war between the US and China, which is making stock markets seriously worried On top of that, if the signs of war between the US and Iran actually come to fruition, the resulting oil price shock could be the uppercut that sees the US economy down for the count There’s also the real risk that China bursts its own bubble, since, according to economist Grace Blakely, Xi Jinping has essentially traded unstable growth for a temporarily satisfied middle class With that in mind, if the two biggest economies in the world dip, you can bet that it’s going to have ripple effects for all of us Best start stocking up on canned goods, you’ll need ‘em

3 Bridge Collapse You might have noticed that a lot of the things we use every single day in public life are pretty worse for wear That means that we’re living pretty precarious day-to-day lives when it comes to ports, railways, airports, dams – as we’ve already seen – and, in this case, bridges In recent years, the world has seen several high profile cases of dangerous bridges unexpectedly caving, most notably the Genoa collapse in 2017 which killed 42 people While that could be dismissed as a fluke, the evidence suggests it’s just part of a trend that could end in tears

For example, the US has more than 54,000 bridges deemed ‘structurally deficient’ That’s 9% of all bridges in the country, and it would take 37 years to fix or replace them all at the current rate And what’s worse, 2017 research from Stanford University found that methods for assessing flood risk on bridges actually underestimate the risk So basically, there are loads of dodgy bridges and they’re probably EVEN less safe than we think Maybe don’t think about that on your way home

2 Catastrophic Cyber Attack In the modern-day, warfare has evolved to the point where physical assaults are just one part of a complex web of tactics, which includes cyberspace As such, the use of hacking, DDOS attacks and cyber-espionage is only going to become a more pressing threat over time According to the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, that’s becoming particularly pressing for the US, since Russia and China are developing capacities for some serious attacks The 2019 report claims that “Moscow is now staging cyber-attack assets to allow it to disrupt or damage US civilian and military infrastructure during a crisis,” which it has already shown it has the capability for after doing just that to Ukraine in 2015

Beyond that, we saw the 2017 North Korean-backed Wannacry malware wreak havoc on windows systems worldwide, including large parts of the UK’s NHS computer system And outside of national security, the World Economic Forum has stated that cyber-attacks are THE biggest risk to businesses around the world So whether its nation-states, organised crime or lone wolves, there’s a looming, potentially massive threat that can’t quite be pinned down 1 EMP Attack In the halcyon days of the Cold War, the prospect of nuclear annihilation was pretty much ever-present in the lives of Americans

But fast forward to the current day and there’s a different, though not unrelated threat to worry about I’m talking about EMP, or electro-magnetic pulses, in other words, a burst of electromagnetic energy that’s capable of crippling power grids and national infrastructures, especially if weaponised And unlike nukes, which we spend a lot of time and resources preparing for, EMP attacks are a serious blind spot In a 2008 EMP Commission report outlining the severity of the threat, there were more than 100 recommendations made to Congress over how to shore up things like electricity services Without those measures, committee chairman William R

Graham says an EMP would be a “civilisation killer” And guess how many were implemented by 2015… zero Yep, as a result, a SECOND commission had to be created to approach an even more pressing threat unprepared For example, the US military now has to deal with a North Korean EMP threat, which is about the last place you would want it to come from

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