In an effort to take the “natural” out of the term natural disasters, a group of scientists has proposed a new set of international disaster case studies under the title “Forensic Disaster Investigations.” The goal behind the case studies is to probe more deeply into the complex and underlying causes of growing disaster losses than previous research has. This long-term effort will require new institutional arrangements and broader interdisciplinary teams. The proposal for these studies is set out in the report of an ad hoc Working Group1 established under a new international consortium of science organizations including the International Council for Science (ICSU), the International Social Sciences Council (ISSC), and the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (ISDR).2 The Forensic Disaster Investigations will form part of the program Integrated Research on Disaster Risk (IRDR),3 now established under the consortium with its International Programme Office in Beijing, China. The main purpose of this article is to outline the central concepts and rationale for the Forensic Disaster Investigations (FDIs), in the context of IRDR, and to invite comments, suggestions, and contributions.
Ian Burton is an Emeritus Professor at the University of Toronto and a Scientist Emeritus with the Meteorological Service of Canada. He has worked for many years in the natural hazards and disasters field and was one of the first to take up the challenge of adaptation to the impacts of climate change. He is currently a Coordinating Lead Author for the IPCC Special Report in preparation, “Managing the Risks of Extreme Events and Disasters to Advance Climate Change Adaptation”. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, and has recently worked as a consultant to the World Bank and the Secretariat of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.