Investing in empowerment through universal education should be key in climate change adaptation efforts, contended the study by International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA).

"Education is key in reducing disaster fatalities and enhancing adaptive capacity," said Wolfgang Lutz, director of IIASA's World Population Programme. The study is based upon natural disaster data for 167 countries over the past four decades as well as a number of studies carried out in individual countries and regions.

"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 project that extreme weather events such as hurricanes are likely to increase with climate change. The objective of the study was to explore the links between fatality rates in natural disasters and education levels.

"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 study illustrated how alternative future trajectories in education lead to greatly differing numbers of expected deaths due to climate change.

"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.

With USD 100 billion currently pledged per year for climate funding through the Green Climate Fund, it is vital to examine where the money would have the greatest impact, said the researchers. The study appeared in the journal Science.

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