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Disasters

Dealing with disasters – from Japan to the Philippines and back and around

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Also available in: 日本語
This post by John Roome originally appeared on Huffington Post Japan on June 28, 2016.


Just consider a few simple statistics. On average, more than 1,000 lives are lost every year in the Philippines, with typhoons accounting for 74 percent of deaths, 62 percent of the total damages, and 70 percent of damages to agriculture.

Typhoon Haiyan struck in November 2013, known as Super Typhoon Yolanda in the Philippines, one of the strongest tropical cyclones ever recorded. The country though is also highly exposed to other hazards, including earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.

Using technology to stay ahead of disaster risk

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Hurricane Patricia. Photo credit: NASA Earth Observatory

We’re witnessing an unprecedented uptick in record-breaking storms. In October last year, Hurricane Patricia came ashore in Mexico with record breaking 200 miles per hour winds. A few months later on the other side of the world, Cyclone Winston broke records for Pacific basin wind speeds, destroying parts of mainland Fiji with 180 miles per hour winds. More recently, Cyclone Fantala became the most powerful storm in the Indian Ocean ever recorded.
 
Experts agree that its activities by people which are increasing the severity of storms like these. Climate change isn’t just projected to increase the intensity of hurricanes and cyclones, but a whole other range of other natural hazards, like droughts, floods, storms, and heat waves.

Building safer cities for a volatile climate

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Photo credit: Diego Charlón Sánche


Just consider some statistics. It’s estimated some one point four million people move to cities every week. And by 2050, we will add nearly 2.5 billion people to the planet, with 90 percent of the urban growth in that time taking place in developing countries.

Yet living in cities can be risky business. Many large cities are coastal, in deltas or on rivers and at risk from of flooding from powerful storms or rising sea levels. Globally 80 percent of the world’s largest cities are vulnerable to severe earthquakes and 60 percent are at risk from tsunamis and storm surges.

We can't delay investing in resilience – the risk is too high

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Action4Climate
As the UN climate conference was starting in Lima, Typhoon Hagupit (Ruby) was about to make landfall in the Philippines. Over 1 million people headed for shelters, with memories of Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda) one year earlier clear in their minds. This short movie tells the story of the 2013 storm and the importance of resilience.



The Paris negotiations where the world will be writing a new international climate agreement are just a year away, and here in Lima, delegates from around the world are discussing their national commitments and contributions that will largely determine the level of ambition in that 2015 deal.

As we trace the path to a resilient and decarbonized economy, we must keep in mind that the Paris agreement will set a framework for the period post-2020. What happens until then?

The science tells us that, even with very ambitious mitigation action, we have already locked-in warming close to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. Climate change impacts such as heat-waves, droughts, storms, and other weather extremes may be unavoidable.

Nowhere to Go

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"Tell Them"
Tell them who we are, says young Marshall Islands poet Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner. Her video was shown during the Small Island Developing States Conference.


In the weeks running up to the 3rd International Conference on Small Island Developing States, out of frustration and a sense that they must look after themselves, a new alliance was born: the Coalition of Atoll Nations on Climate Change. Or, as President Tong of Kiribati called it, the "alliance of the sinking". The coalition comprising Tuvalu, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Maldives, Cook Islands, and Tokelau, with Micronesia associated as part of their territory, is atoll territory.
 
These nations have tried everything to bring their situations to the climate negotiators' and development organizations' attention and have their special situation recognized. With just 15 months until the Paris climate negotiations, they seek in a group to be able to support each other and to make themselves heard. 

Restoring Ocean Health Can Spur Blue Growth in the Islands

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Healthy oceans provide food and income for island nations, including through tourism. Valerie Hickey/World Bank

Running from event to event to partnership dialogue here in the beautiful island of Upolu, Samoa, while listening to delegates to the 3rd annual Small Island Developing States Conference, two things ring loud and true: Small islands need ocean-based economic growth to diversify their economies, attract investment, grow their GDP, increase jobs, and end pockets of extreme poverty. And strong ocean-based economies need healthy oceans.
 
Great ocean states know this. They know that they cannot afford the boom and bust cycle that emerges as natural capital is liquidated and the ocean emptied and trashed. But small islands cannot forsake growth in the name of conserving natural resources either. We can fish the oceans empty; but we mustn’t. The future of growth, jobs, resilience all depend on the sustainable management of the resources of the ocean. For small islands, blue growth is critical; done smartly, blue collapse is avoidable.

Big Challenges, Small States: Island Nations Come Together for Climate Action

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New community buildings in Samoa

On Sunday in Apia, the capital of Samoa, I saw the results of the World Bank Group’s work with coastal communities that were devastated by the 2009 tsunami and by Cyclone Evan in 2012.  Working with the Samoan government and partners, we built coastal roads and a new system of access roads that leads into the hills away from the seashore. Many families rebuilt their homes in the hills, and the new road system helps bind those new households together as well as providing safe escape routes should a tsunami or major storm hit the coast again.
 
The hard infrastructure construction is interesting; the community conversations about next steps for protecting the coastlines are even more so. The government is launching a series of community consultations that will bring together village mayors, women leaders, government agencies, and NGOs to decide how best to climate-proof their coastlines. The communities are set to decide if sea walls or mangrove plantations will best protect their land and livelihood.  

I’m in Apia with a team from across the IFC and the World Bank to represent the World Bank Group at the 3rd UN Conference for Small Island Developing States and took the opportunity to learn more about climate and disaster risk management at the community level.
 
For island nations, the small size of their land and their economies comes with a set of unique vulnerabilities that makes climate change a major determinant of their ability to thrive and in some cases even survive.

Risk & Resilience in the Wake of the Typhoon: Tacloban Rebuilds

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Risk & Resilience in Tacloban


Along the Philippine coast, where Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) was so powerful it swept ships onto the land late last year, poor families have started to rebuild their homes, often in the same high-risk zones. Their experience has been a powerful symbol for the rest of the world. We can't eradicate poverty unless we find a way to manage climate change, says Rachel Kyte, the World Bank Group's vice president and special envoy for climate change.

In this video blog, Kyte describes the recovery in Tacloban and the need to build resilience to all development planning. 

Sustainable Development Gains Require Greater Climate and Disaster Resilience

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 Richard Whitcombe/Shutterstock

Average economic losses from natural disasters are rising, despite considerable efforts to better manage risk from natural hazards over the last few decades. Data from Munich Re shows a sharp rise, from $50 billion a year in the 1980s to just under $200 billion annually in the last decade. Population growth, rapid urbanization, and climate change are compounding these losses. Securing prosperity in the midst of growing hazards is an enormous challenge that demands a new approach to development.

The international community is rising to meet this challenge head-on. Last week in Oslo, Norway, I had the privilege of participating in the 15th Consultative Group Meeting for the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR), where 75 representatives from partner countries and international development organizations met to help scale up and better mainstream efforts to build climate and disaster resilience in some of the most vulnerable communities around the globe.

With the importance of this effort in mind, I co-authored an article with Norwegian Minister of Foreign Affairs Børge Brende, in which the minister and I argue that sustainable development gains require a new approach towards mitigating risk from climate change and natural hazards. After the recent days spent with my colleagues in Norway, I’m encouraged by the shared enthusiasm of GFDRR and its partners for the task ahead. It’s time to get to work.

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