Join us

Become a member and discover where geography can take you.

Join us

Are some places riskier than others?

In this lesson students think about what sorts of risks there are locally and globally and give a subjective scale to the level of risk

Zooming out from the local to the global scale, this lesson also puts the risks faced in students' local area into context with the bigger picture, whole nations and regions whose populations face levels of risk from natural and human hazards.

Key questions

What is the ‘scale' of risk?

Which places in the world are most risky?

What is the ‘scale' of risk?

There are different scales of risk and this is be influenced by social, economic and environmental factors. Perceptions of places can also influence subjective scales of risk.

Which places in the world are most risky?

Quality of life and life expectancy vary across the globe as a result of a number of risks. These hazards can be divided into natural disasters (e.g. tropical storms and earthquakes), man-made dangers (e.g. war and crime) and disease, which are often spread by a combination of physical conditions and human actions. The exact impact each of these risks has on a population depends on the country in which they live, with the country's level of development having an effect on how able countries are to ‘protect' their populations from the worst risks. Regions with a high mortality risk from drought, exposure to geophysical or hydrological hazards as well as those where malaria and HIV/AIDs are prevalent could be considered as places whose populations are most at risk. It is worth considering here that road traffic accidents are one of main causes of mortality in some regions such as Africa. Armed conflict obviously greatly increases the risks to a population. Places in the Low Elevation Coastal Zones have always been at risk but with climate change and increased storm intensity and sea level rise these places are likely to become riskier.

According to the International Institute for Environment and Development:

  • Nearly two-thirds of urban settlements with more than five million inhabitants are at least partially in a coastal zone just 10m or below average sea level

  • On average, 14% of people in the least developed countries live in a coastal zone just 10m or below average sea level (compared to 10% in OECD countries)

  • Twenty one per cent of the urban populations of least developed nations are in a coastal zone just 10m or below average sea level (11% in OECD countries)

  • About 75% of people in a coastal zone just 10m or below average sea level are in Asia

  • Twenty one nations have more than half of their population in a coastal zone just 10m or below average sea level (16 are small island states)

  • Poor countries - and poor communities within them - are most at risk



Look at the risky places PowerPoint and rate the different places on a scale of one to five according to whether you think they are ‘risky'.

Compare your scores with a partner.

Main Activity

Organize the places in the order that you think are the ‘riskiest' using the diamond nine sheet.

Once you have completed the exercise looking at most risky places, in groups take one of the focuses below and reorder them again in terms of risk according to your chosen focus:

  • Economic factors

  • Social factors

  • Environmental factors

  • Political factors

  • Long term

  • Short term

  • Large scale

  • Small scale

Use the Am I a global citizen: Areas at risk from natural hazards interactive to look at risk on a global scale and identify regions or continents at risk from natural and human hazards.


Complete the Ripple effect diagram. Place the riskiest place in the centre, the biggest reason for this risk in the next circle, the next biggest reason and so on.