With climate change causing increasingly chaotic weather patterns, natural disasters are becoming more common across the world. To properly set up plans to protect against natural disasters, it’s important to understand exactly what effects they have on society by looking at past disasters.

A natural disaster is anything ranging from a volcanic eruption to a tropical storm. This is regardless of whether the natural disaster was indirectly caused by mankind, like those caused as a result of global warming.

The distance is a major factor in the effects of a natural disaster. A major forest fire in the wilds of California, as has happened frequently in the late 2000s, impacts a minimal number of people because there are few people who live here. In this case, it’s an example of the devastation it can have on plants and animals.

During these fires, large swathes of forest were wiped out. It reduces the chance of another natural disaster in future, but it also sends large numbers of animals away from the area. This leaves California less naturally diverse and might deter some nature tourists, which impacts the economy.

The human cost is the main effect of a natural disaster when it occurs closer to densely populated areas. Mount Vesuvius is the most dangerous volcano in Europe and is the only European mainland volcano to erupt in the last 100 years. In 79 AD, it buried the Roman cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum. Today, it’s still active and 3 million people live in the immediate area.

The number of deaths impacts society because it wipes part of the population away. This leaves survivors traumatised and family members impacted emotionally. It’s also an economic problem as it could deprive businesses of valuable employees, or even destroy them completely.

In the context of a nation, a natural disaster in a populated area could easily cause an economic slump. The loss of business and the reduction in tourists to the surrounding areas can shut down companies and cause increasing levels of unemployment. It also encourages emigration, which promotes long-term negative economic effects.

Politically, there are two things which usually happen. The governing party of a country acts to aid the affected victims and it changes the ideologies and views of the citizenry. It also distracts them from any other pressing issues which the government has been dealing with. To some in politics, they take the cynical view of a natural disaster being a welcome relief for a government under fire.

Alternatively, the political effects become damaging. If the government doesn’t evacuate people quickly enough or hasn’t been seen to do enough to stave off a disaster, it could turn people against them.

Overall, a natural disaster goes further than just to change the lives of people directly impacted. It goes on to change the way a country does business, acts, and even the way it thinks.