The CRED credo, or how to bury information ?

If we are to believe what CRED proclaims, here it is :

« The Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED¹) is one of the leading agencies for the study of public health during mass emergencies… CRED’s Emergency Events Database (EMDAT²) contains the world’s most comprehensive data on the occurrence and effects of… natural hazard-related disasters from 1900 to the present day…. the main objective of EM-DAT is to inform humanitarian action at the national and international levels in order to improve decision-making in disaster preparedness, provide objective data for assessing communities’ vulnerability to disasters and to help policy-makers set priorities³ »

In reality, this is what you get on the EMDAT website, with the same query⁴, last year and… today.

The request :

  • A graphical representation of the total number of natural disasters, classified in the 5 subgroups defined by CRED (biological, climatological, geophysical, hydrological and meteorological) ;
  • occurred on the five continents : Asia, Africa, Americas, Europe, Oceania ;
  • during the period 2000–2019.

Last year, we obtained :

Where we see the evolution, over the whole period, of the annual frequency of natural disasters, here undoubtedly a decrease, broken down by subgroup, with a rough visual estimate of the number of disasters per year. Clear, simple and useful.

Today, with the same request, we get :

No more visible evolution of the annual frequency of natural disasters, their decrease has been totally erased, the split by subgroup has disappeared, the visual estimation of the number of disasters per year has evaporated. All we have is a vague geographical distribution and their overall number, over 20 years, for 10 countries. Clearly and simply useless.

And the same could be said of the number of deaths :

The number of people affected :

The amount of economic damage :

What happened ?

Until last year, histograms similar to those shown above could be obtained at a glance on the EM-DAT website, the CRED database.

They made it possible to follow the annual evolution, over the last 120 years, of different variables (number of disasters, deaths, people affected, amount of economic damage, etc.) linked to natural disasters.

Today, the only graphical representations available on the EM-DAT website, for a selected period, are coloured world maps, with global numbers for some countries. These representations are not useful in general and, in particular, no longer allow the evolution of the different variables over the years to be followed. It is obviously more convenient if one wishes to conceal an embarrassing reality.

When asked at the time about this change in CRED policy, the answer was :

« The data access policy was changed last year and users… now have unlimited and free access to EM-DAT data, in the form of an Excel file. The ‘old’ tools for aggregated tables or graphs are no longer available. It is now easy to generate tables and graphs from the Excel file ».

In short, if CRED has removed the possibility of obtaining information in a few moments and replaced it with several hours of work, it is to make things « easier » !

Today, in concrete terms, you have to retrieve the raw data from CRED, sort it according to your needs and reconstruct the graphs yourself⁵. One or more days of work depending on the person’s computer skills and the volume of data processed.

Almost no one will do it, certainly no journalist or politician talking about the climate.

So no one will see that all the numbers in question are decreasing or remaining stable, and the discomfort caused by having to confront this reality, which is contrary to the dominant « thinking », is thus avoided.

We have gone from a situation where every citizen, interested in public affairs, had simple and direct access to information, the collection of which is financed through his or her taxes, and which allowed him or her to make « informed decisions » based on « objective data »…

… to a situation where only a privileged few, companies, organisations and pressure groups, will have the time, knowledge and resources to process the data and obtain an intelligible representation of its evolution in order to use it to defend their own interests.

Political correctness is preserved.

The general interest has lost.

But how putting up this additional hurdle helps CRED to fulfil its « main objective » of « improving decision making… providing objective data… assisting decision makers » remains a mystery.

Sources :

[1] https://www.cred.be/

[2] https://www.emdat.be/

[3] « Human cost of disasters — an overview of the last 20 years — 2000–2019 » : https://www.undrr.org/sites/default/files/inline-files/Human%20Cost%20of%20Disasters%202000-2019%20FINAL.pdf

[4] Application : Mapping tool = National level ; Classification = Natural ; Disaster measure = Occurrences ; Period = 2000–2019.

[5] There is, however, still the possibility of finding the EM-DAT results on an online publication of Oxford University. The options are just more limited and the graphics less « beautiful » : https://ourworldindata.org/natural-disasters.

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Licencié en Sciences chimiques Licencié en Histoire, Pensée et Civilisation juives ULB

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Ludwik Budyn

Ludwik Budyn

Licencié en Sciences chimiques Licencié en Histoire, Pensée et Civilisation juives ULB

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