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Disaster Repsonse

What El Niño teaches us about climate resilience

Francis Ghesquiere's picture
It was recorded by the Spanish conquistadors, and triggered famines that have been linked to China’s 1901 Boxer Rebellion and even the French revolution.

Named by Peruvian fishermen because of its tendency to appear around Christmastime, El Niño is the planet’s most large-scale and recurring mode of climate variability. Every 2-7 years, a slackening of trade winds that push sun-warmed water across the Pacific contributes to a rise in water temperature across large parts of the ocean. As the heat rises, a global pattern of weather changes ensues, triggering heat waves in many tropical regions and extreme drought or rainfall in others.

The fact that we are undergoing a major El Niño event should cause major concern and requires mobilization now. Already, eight provinces in the Philippines are in a state of emergency due to drought; rice farmers in Vietnam and Thailand have left fields unplanted due to weak rains; and 42,000 people have been displaced by floods in Somalia.

And this is before the event reaches its peak. Meteorologists see a 95% chance of the El Niño lasting into 2016, with its most extreme effects arriving between now and March. Coastal regions of Latin America are braced for major floods; India is dealing with a 14% deficit in the recent monsoon rains; and poor rainfalls could add to insecurity in several of Africa’s fragile states. Indeed, Berkeley Professor Soloman Hsiang has used historical data to demonstrate that the likelihood of new conflict outbreaks in tropical regions doubles from 3% to 6% in an El Niño year.

But despite its thousand-year history, the devastation associated with El Niño is not inevitable. Progress made by many other countries since the last major event, in 1997-98, shows that we can get a grip on its effect – and others caused by climate trends.

Weekly Wire: The Global Forum

Roxanne Bauer's picture
These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.

5 Best Practices for Using Technology in Disaster Response
The Institute for Technology and Social Change
Working in humanitarian aid and disaster relief across several countries, I first joined the TechChange community as a student in the Tech Tools and Skills for Emergency Management online course in January 2012, and will soon be guiding discussions as a facilitator for the next round of the course that begins March 17, 2014. Since TechChange has offered this emergency management course six times since 2011, I’ve enjoyed stepping up my participation from student, to guest speaker, tech simulation demonstrator, to now a facilitator.In my opinion, disaster management is a field where nobody is really an expert in that different people have varied areas of expertise. A facilitated TechChange course like TC103 is an opportunity to get people of different backgrounds together, which is especially valuable in a field like disaster management, which evolves so quickly and can be tough to keep track of. Here are five lessons I have learned over the course of seven years of working in disaster response across Haiti, Liberia, Myanmar, Mali, and most recently the Philippines

Generate decent jobs 'or a billion people will remain in extreme poverty'
The Guardian
Up to a billion people will remain in extreme poverty by 2030 unless countries focus on inequalities and confront social, economic and cultural forces that block their escape or pull them back into impoverishment, a major report warns. The report (pdf) by the Chronic Poverty Advisory Network (CPAN) asserts that many people may rise above the poverty line of $1.25 a day, only to tumble back when they are hit by a combination or sequence of shocks such as drought, illness and insecurity or conflict.