Ig­nor­ing green­house gas emis­sions a costly er­ror

New Straits Times - - Letters -

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

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