Surge in cli­mate-re­lated dis­as­ters

Hu­man­i­tar­i­ans urge more ef­forts to pre­pare for loom­ing changes on a warm­ing planet

The Star Malaysia - - World -

GENEVA: The num­ber of cli­mate-re­lated dis­as­ters around the world is grow­ing rapidly, hu­man­i­tar­i­ans warned, urg­ing more ef­forts to pre­pare and build re­silience to loom­ing changes on a warm­ing planet.

Cli­mate shocks are al­ready driv­ing dis­place­ment, caus­ing many to go hun­gry and are spark­ing or ex­ac­er­bat­ing con­flicts around the globe, hu­man­i­tar­ian work­ers said, cau­tion­ing that the sit­u­a­tion is quickly de­te­ri­o­rat­ing.

“With cli­mate change, the shocks and haz­ards are mul­ti­ply­ing,” El­hadj As Sy (pic), Sec­re­tary-Gen­eral of the In­ter­na­tional Fed­er­a­tion of Red Cross and Red Cres­cent So­ci­eties (IFRC), said.

Speak­ing on the side­lines of a con­fer­ence in Geneva on the im­pact of cli­mate change on hu­man­i­tar­ian sit­u­a­tions around the globe, he cau­tioned that such “shocks” were “get­ting more fre­quent and more se­vere”.

Fri­day’s con­fer­ence was aimed at un­pack­ing the hu­man­i­tar­ian im­pli­ca­tions of the find­ings in a land­mark UN cli­mate re­port this week, which warned dras­tic ac­tion was needed to pre­vent Earth from hurtling to­wards an un­bear­able rise in tem­per­a­ture.

The In­ter­gov­ern­men­tal Panel for Cli­mate Change (IPCC) said the globe’s sur­face has al­ready warmed one de­gree Cel­sius – enough to lift oceans and un­leash a crescendo of deadly storms, floods and droughts – and is on track to­ward an un­live­able 3°C or 4°C rise.

Ger­not La­ganda, who heads the World Food Pro­gramme’s cli­mate and disas­ter risk re­duc­tion di­vi­sion, pointed out that cli­mate shocks are al­ready “sig­nif­i­cant driv­ers of dis­place­ment”, forc­ing 22.5 mil­lion peo­ple to leave their homes each year.

Speak­ing to jour­nal­ists in Geneva, he also de­cried the “in­creas­ingly dis­trac­tive in­ter­play be­tween con­flict and cli­mate dis­as­ters”.

He pointed out that the world’s 10 most con­flict-af­fected coun­tries, in­clud­ing Syria, Ye­men and the Demo­cratic Repub­lic of Congo, are also im­pacted by ex­treme weather events, cre­at­ing a so-called “pres­sure-cooker” ef­fect.

La­ganda pointed to pro­jec­tions that if the planet warms just 2°C, 189 mil­lion more peo­ple than to­day will be­come food in­se­cure.

“And if it is a four-de­gree warmer world ... we’re look­ing be­yond one bil­lion more,” he said, adding that this “is a very, very strong ar­gu­ment for early and de­ci­sive cli­mate ac­tion”.

Sy mean­while said hu­man­i­tar­i­ans had al­ready seen a dra­matic in­crease in cli­mate and weather-re­lated crises.

“In the 1970s, we used to be deal­ing with 80 to 100 se­vere weath­er­re­lated shocks and haz­ards each year,” he said, con­trast­ing that to last year, when the num­ber was around 400 – “four times more”.

While ac­knowl­edg­ing that cli­mate-re­lated shocks would likely keep climb­ing, Sy em­pha­sised that it was not in­evitable that such shocks and haz­ards should “be­come a disas­ter”.

“We need to be bet­ter pre­pared with early warn­ing and with early alert,” he said, also stress­ing the im­por­tance for IFRC of con­tin­u­ously hav­ing vol­un­teers on the ground in af­fected com­mu­ni­ties to help them to adapt to cli­mate change.

The or­gan­i­sa­tion counts some 70 mil­lion vol­un­teers around the world, so when cli­mate-linked shocks and haz­ards hit, they “find us al­ready there,” he said.

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