As the East Coast USA deals with Hurricane Sandy, aka “Frankenstorm”, and Hawaii breathes a sigh of relief at a downgraded tsunami, we are again reminded of the immediate and long-term socio-economic destruction of natural disasters. Hurricane Sandy has resulted in school and public transportation closures, flight cancellations, area evacuations, and even modified Presidential campaign schedules. New York Mayor Bloomberg urged residents to cooperate, “if you don't evacuate, you are not only endangering your life, you are also endangering the lives of the first responders who are going in to rescue you. This is a serious and dangerous storm.”1
Ground zero for natural disasters lies not in the US, however, but in the Asia Pacific Region. Last week, UN ESCAP/UNISDR released the Asia-Pacific Disaster Report 2012, ‘Reducing Vulnerability and Exposure to Disasters’. In the year 2011 alone, Asia Pacific represented:
- 80% (US$ 294/366.1 billion) of the annual global disaster losses
- Half of the most costly natural disaster events
|Photo © Syed Zakir Hossain/Greenpeace|
We are now faced with overwhelming scientific evidence that more intense storm surges and sea-level rise from climate change are serious global threats. Increased cyclonic activity and heightened storm surges are expected from the rise in sea surface temperature now observed at all latitudes and in all oceans. Even small changes in sea level profoundly affect storm surge height and the extent of flooding in coastal zones and adjoining low-lying areas. I think there is a dire need for greater disaster preparedness in countries vulnerable to such storm surges.
With Maria Blair, Associate Vice President of the Rockefeller Foundation
|Photo: © Jonas Bendiksen,
courtesy of the Rockefeller Foundation
We read Nicholas Stern’s blog post, “Low-Carbon Growth: The Only Sustainable Way to Overcome World Poverty,” with appreciation and enthusiasm. It is an insightful and important essay, illuminating the bedrock recognition on which effective 21st century development efforts must build: global climate change and poverty are inextricably interconnected. The best way to break one is to bend the other.
|Photo: © Mohon Mondal, Local Environment Development and Agricultural Research Society, Bangladesh.|
Estimates assessing how many people will be displaced or forced to migrate because of climate change impacts are wide-ranging. But anecdotes of where climate-related migration is already taking place are beginning to crowd newspapers, radio and television programs, and various internet sources. Other than the low-lying islands which could be completely consumed by rising ocean waters, perhaps nowhere else in the world are these stories more pronounced than in Bangladesh.
[Originally posted at the Development Marketplace Blog]
In my first blog entry, I mentioned that adaptation to climate change spans a vast range of possible actions and that it can seem a rather abstract concept. Adaptation can range from sea walls to drought-resistant crops to social protection for climate shocks. This big range of possible actions makes it hard to nail down: what does any given country, region, or village really need to do to start adapting? Any two people talking about climate adaptation in poor countries probably carry different mental images of the kind of actions they think will be needed.
To pretend that we have all the answers—as some of the numerous reports being written on the topic do—is foolish. We are in the pioneer days of gearing up for climate change and no-one knows what actions will ultimately prove most effective.