In 1999, the state of Odisha, India, was hit by the most powerful tropical cyclone ever recorded in the North Indian Ocean, causing nearly 10,000 fatalities and US$5 billion in damages. For the next decade, the government of Odisha and partners worked to identify and mitigate cyclone risk. When the similarly intense Cyclone Phailin struck Odisha in October 2013, the region counted 99.6% fewer deaths.
We cannot prevent a monsoon or cyclone from striking – and as population growth, urbanization, and climate change are on the rise, the frequency and impact of natural disasters will increase. But with innovation, collaboration and a better understanding of risk, we can build communities that are more resilient to natural hazards.
This time, things were different. We became real players in the public discussion about mitigating climate change in Central Asia.
The forum in question -- the second Central Asia Climate Knowledge Forum: Moving towards Regional Climate Resilience – was organized by the World Bank Group in Almaty in May, and brought together about 200 participants from nearly all institutions interested or involved in this problem -- including top officials of Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, and donors. Around 30 civil society representatives from the Central Asian countries also attended the event. NGOs were represented more solidly at the second forum compared to the first.
”Focus on the journey, not the destination,” was our guiding principle.
Every day, the world’s population generates enough waste to fill about 14 large soccer stadiums from top to bottom, more than 3.5 million tonnes. That's a lot of trash, from plastic bottles that aren't going anywhere to food scraps and other perishable items decaying and building up greenhouse gases in landfills and trash dumps.
The Global Oceans Action Summit closed not with a call for action as is so typical of conferences these days, but with a series of very real and resourced commitments to shared and urgent action.Hosted by the Government of the Netherlands, this summit convened around the consensus goal of healthy oceans, and brought the public and private sectors, civil society actors, local communities and even local Dutch fisherfolk to the table. Diverse groups came together to talk, listen and make commitments.
Elephants – in particular the forest elephants of Central Africa – are being poached at unprecedented rates for their valuable ivory. It is estimated that at least 200,000 forest elephants – a whopping 65 percent of the elephant population – have been slaughtered since 2002. Gabon and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) have been hotspots for the killing.
Now you might ask why we should care--an especially appropriate question to ask as we celebrate Earth Day. As humans, we may be attached to charismatic species such as elephants – but will their extinction affect us directly? The answer is yes. The intricate interconnections within ecosystems mean that the disappearance of a species has effects that are never limited to just that particular species. The impact can be broad and deep, affecting other animal and plant species, our water supply, people’s livelihoods, and even – in small ways – the climate.
Above, watch the trailer for "Years of Living Dangerously" and the panel discussion with Thomas Friedman during the 2014 Spring Meetings. Below, watch the premiere episode.
Fueled by warmer temperatures and added moisture in the air, a storm system coils like a snake ready to strike. Rising seas stand poised to obliterate shoreline developments and cityscapes. The brown, dry soil of once-verdant farmland threatens food security for millions, all while the number of mouths to feed grows. Wildfires rage and burning peat lands belch black carbon and greenhouse gases into our thin shell of an atmosphere.
And that’s how climate change is affecting real people, right now, all over the globe. “Years of Living Dangerously” on SHOWTIME® features an exceptional cast of world-class journalists and celebrity reporters documenting the impact of climate change worldwide. Over nine episodes, we show that climate change is 100% a people story.
World leaders just affirmed the latest in a series of reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the Nobel Prize-winning authority on climate science. These reports are uncompromising in their assessment that climate change is real, it’s us, it's now, it's getting worse, and we’re not prepared. The latest report makes clear we have the clean energy technologies to start slashing carbon pollution at very low cost, much lower than the cost of inaction – but the window to act is closing fast.
For a very long time, the rich have known to some extent how the poor around the world live. What’s new in today's world is that the best-kept secret from the poor, namely, how the rich live, is now out. Through the village television, the Internet and hand-held instruments, which a rapidly increasing number of the poor possess, life-styles of the rich and the middle class are transmitted in full color to their homes every day.
Last year, when I traveled with President Evo Morales to a Bolivian village 14,000 feet above sea level, villagers snapped pictures on their smartphones of our arrival. In Uttar Pradesh, the state in India with the highest number of poor people, I found Indians watching Korean soap operas on their smartphones.
We live in an unequal world. But while the rich world may be blind to the suffering of the poor, the poor throughout the world are very much aware of how the rich live. And they have shown they are willing to take action.
In September, the world’s top scientists said the human influence on climate was clear. Last month, they warned of increased risks of a rapidly warming planet to our economies, environment, food supply, and global security. Today, the latest report from the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) describes what we need to do about it.
The report, focused on mitigation, says that global greenhouse gas emissions were rising faster in the last decade than in the previously three, despite reduction efforts. Without additional mitigation efforts, we could see a temperature rise of 3.7 to 4.8 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial times by the end of this century. The IPCC says we can still limit that increase to 2 degrees, but that will require substantial technological, economic, institutional, and behavioral change.
Let’s translate the numbers. For every degree rise, that equates to more risk, especially for the poor and most vulnerable.
A perfect storm of disaster risk is forming at the intersection of population growth, rapid urbanization, and climate change – one that is threatening to upend efforts towards achieving our development goals.
The number of natural disasters has nearly doubled in the last three decades, with the cost of these events increasing substantially– from around $50 billion annually in the 1980’s to just under $200 billion a year in the last decade, with extreme weather events responsible for nearly three-fourths of these losses.
One reason is population growth, 95 percent of which is happening and will continue to happen in developing countries. Another is rapidly expanding cities. Growing stress on infrastructure, utilities, and housing will only exacerbate risks and undo decades of achievements in development and increase the burden on humanitarian efforts.