Well-known Scottish scientist Iain Stewart delivered that grim prediction yesterday in Brisbane during an address to a global geology conference.
Professor Stewart, a geologist and academic who has gained fame for multiple BBC television series on the planet, said the risk of disaster has grown because a growing number of mega-cities are built on or near major earthquake faults.
Large settlements since antiquity have been based on these fault lines because they also help provide water and are usually located near flat plains ideally suited for growing crops.
This “fatal attraction” to dangerous areas was “actually a good thing”, because historically the trade-off was worth it since earthquakes were rare and most cities were not that large, he said.
While earthquakes today were often less destructive because of improved building codes, more people were affected because cities were larger, Prof Stewart told delegates at the 34th International Geological Congress.