Ignoring greenhouse gas emissions a costly error
IT is a simple fact that as we pump record levels of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, we are ramping up disaster risk around the globe now and for generations to come.
It goes with the sobering reality of warming and rising seas and changes in the Earth’s systems that are influencing storms, winds and rainfall. The toll this takes on human life, economies and government expenditures will be high on the agenda when world leaders gather in Mexico for the Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction this month.
Figures show that disasters — 90 per cent of which are classified as climate-related — cost the world economy US$520 billion (RM2.3 trillion) per year and push 26 million people into poverty every year.
In the 22 years that have passed since Conference of the Parties 1, the first of United Nations Climate Change conferences, we have seen greenhouse gas emissions reach critically high levels which bode ill for those who already live in dry lands, cyclone-exposed coastlines, flood plains, below unstable hillsides or parts of the world dependent on glacier meltwater.
Over that time span, we have also seen a doubling of weatherand climate-related disasters, which can further weaken least developed countries like Haiti, which lost more than 600 lives and around a third of its gross domestic product when it was struck by Hurricane Matthew last October.
Recent estimates show that the bill for Haiti’s recovery from that Category 4 hurricane comes to US$2.8 billion (RM12 billion), an extraordinary sum for a country where 60 per cent of the population live in dire poverty.
The Philippines lost thousands of its citizens, partly due to the slow passage of Typhoon Haiyan across the warming, rising waters of the Pacific Ocean in 2013. And, again, the economic losses and the cost of building back better ran into billions.
Meanwhile, the drylands of the Sahel and southern Africa, already at high risk from rising temperatures, breached the limits of their capacity to sustain human life adequately in the last 12 months as country after country declared a state of emergency and millions suffered the devastation of hunger and loss of livelihood.
Just five years after the first famine of the 21st century was declared over, Somalia is again on the brink underlining the fact that 80 per cent of the world’s hungry live in countries that are