Improved disaster-risk management and resilience is essential for sustainable societies1. But the science of natural hazards is too fragmented to influence policy effectively. Seismologists, for example, had long warned in specialist journals that Nepal's Kathmandu region was due a large earthquake. Local politicians did not strengthen construction codes, reinforce old buildings or inform the population about potential risks. Had such measures been implemented — as they have in Japan, California and Chile — the death toll would have been lower (see ‘Three lessons yet to be learned’). Similarly, structures in flood-prone areas can be elevated; those in cyclone zones wind-proofed; and the public educated about such possibilities.