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Disasters

Addressing the Perfect Storm

Francis Ghesquiere's picture

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.

A 10-Hour Crash Course in Japanese Solidarity and Resilience

Joaquin Toro's picture


After more than two hours stranded at a small town train station near Tokyo, Japan, with record snowfall and freezing temperatures outside our windows, the train driver addressed us for the third time – no new updates. “Our personnel are working to fix the problem,” the voice said. At that moment, an older man seated next to me leaned over and told me, “We have to do our part; the people working in the snow are trying their best to fix the system, so we can move. We should remain calm and wait - we cannot be part of the problem.” I was starting to understand why Japanese are so resilient.
 
This adventure began last February, following my participation in the launch of the new, $100 million joint program between Japan and the World Bank for disaster risk reduction. This program, implemented by the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR), will benefit a large number of especially vulnerable countries around the world.  As part of this new initiative, the World Bank also launched the Disaster Risk Management Tokyo Hub.
 
The launch for the Tokyo Hub was held at a high level symposium at the Japan Keidanren (Japan Business Federation) on February 3, which attracted more than 400 people and had substantial media coverage.  The Senior Vice-Minister for Finance/Senior Vice-Minister for Reconstruction Jiro Aichi (a native of Sendai) spoke of Japan's commitment to disaster risk management (DRM) and thanked the World Bank for its strong support, before kicking off an intense program of inter-agency meetings to better utilize Japanese expertise in DRM practices.
 
My experience with Japanese solidarity and resilience, however, was best highlighted the day I was returning home. On February 9, as I was trying to get to Narita airport, more than 27 centimeters of snow fell on Tokyo and other areas of Japan, the heaviest of 40 years. Many buildings in the city collapsed, leaving at least 11 dead and more than 1,200 injured across the country.

Needed: Pragmatic Energy Leadership for a Livable Future

Rachel Kyte's picture
Also available in: العربية | Français | Español | 中文

Beijing Smog. Ilya Haykinson/Flickr Creative CommonsRight now, as you read this, wherever you are, we are in uncharted territory. Our global population of 7.1 billion is headed for more than 9 billion by 2050. With our growing numbers and aspirations for shared prosperity comes a growing demand for energy to power homes, businesses, industry and transport. Our continuing reliance on fossil fuels is generating pollution and a dangerously high amount of greenhouse gas emissions – this past summer, the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere passed levels not seen in 3 million years.

If you were in Beijing last week, you felt the impact in your lungs: Just 16 days into the new year, the city woke up to its first “airpocalypse” of 2014, the latest in a series of dangerously high smog days. Beijing’s mayor announced plans the same day to cut coal use by 2.6 million tons and ban heavily polluting vehicles.

That was an important local step, and we are seeing forward-thinking cities and national governments make similar moves as they develop the architecture for a cleaner, low-carbon future.

Mobilizing Climate Finance to Build a Low-Carbon, Resilient Future

Rachel Kyte's picture

This past week, we saw our future in a world of more extreme weather as Super Typhoon Haiyan tore apart homes and cities and thousands of lives across the Philippines.

Scientists have been warning for years that a warming planet will bring increasingly extreme and devastating weather. Scientific certainty has brought climate change over the planning horizon, and the impact is now unfurling before our eyes.  This level of damage, with millions of people affected, will become more frequent unless we do something about it – fast.

Negotiators from around the world are here in Warsaw for the UN climate conference to work on drivers that can spur that action on a global scale.

It is not overly complicated. We need to get the prices right, get finance flowing, and work where it matters most. But, each of these will take political will to right-size our collective ambition – for ourselves and for the people of the Philippines and the Pacific Islands and the low-lying coasts of Africa and the Caribbean who are directly in harm’s way.

We’re Seeking 18 Dynamic Leaders to Help Us Meet Our Goals

Keith Hansen's picture

The World Bank Group is searching internally and globally for 18 experienced and driven professionals to help achieve two ambitious goals: reducing the number of people living on less than $1.25 a day to 3% by 2030 and promoting shared prosperity by fostering the income growth of the bottom 40%. These leaders will be crucial to our plan to improve the way we work, so we can deploy the best skills and expertise to our clients everywhere, to help tackle the most difficult development challenges around the world.   

Last month, the Bank Group’s member countries endorsed our new strategy which for the first time leverages the combined strength of the WBG institutions and their unique ability to partner with the public and private sectors to deliver development solutions backed by finance, world class knowledge and convening services.

Instrumental to the success of our strategy is the establishment of Global Practices and Cross-Cutting Solution Areas, which will bring all technical staff together, making it possible for us to expand our knowledge and better connect global and local expertise for transformational impact. Our ultimate goal is to deploy the best skills and expertise to our clients at the right time, and become the leading partner for complex development solutions.

We are accepting applications for the Global Practice senior directors who will lead these pools of specialists in the following areas: Agriculture; Education; Energy and Extractives; Environment and Natural Resources; Finance and Markets; Governance; Health, Nutrition, and Population; Macroeconomics and Fiscal Management; Poverty; Social Protection and Labor; Trade and Competitiveness; Transport and Information Technology; Urban, Rural, and Social Development; and Water.

Pulling the Tablecloth Out From Under Development Efforts - Without Breaking a Glass

Benedikt Lukas Signer's picture

Residents return from storm shelters to Ganjam district in Odisha after Cyclone Phailan made landfall. ADRA India / European CommissionWhen Cyclone Phailin struck the Indian states of Odisha and Andhra Pradesh last week, the predictions were dire. In 1999, a cyclone of comparable strength took 10,000 lives.
 
While Phailin affected up to 8 million people, leaving approximately 600,00 homeless, death tolls are currently estimated to be in the low double digits. What made all the difference between 1999 and today? A much improved early warning system, effective evacuations, and the construction of shelters probably played a crucial role. Credible forecasts and early warnings were available for several days before landfall, and close to one million people were evacuated.
 
Everyone who still thinks disasters are ‘natural’ should stop and consider this for a minute. This difference in impact is a real world example of an analogy discussed at the 5th Resilience Dialogue on Oct. 11, 2013.  Here’s my interpretation:
 
Remember that old magic trick where a tablecloth is pulled off a fully set table but (almost) nothing falls over?

The World Food Day Challenge: Feeding More People with Fewer Resources

Juergen Voegele's picture
Also available in: Français | Español | 中文 | العربية
Climate-Smart Agriculture


Here’s something to ponder as we mark World Food Day: In the global fight against hunger, the world’s poorest continue to suffer the biggest losses.

The statistics are staggering. One in eight people are suffering from chronic hunger. More than 1 billion people are undernourished, and under-nutrition is to blame for one-third of all child deaths.  

As the population booms, we can expect that the food insecurity challenge will only intensify.

Percentages, Pauses and Politics (of Climate Change)

Rachel Kyte's picture
Also available in: العربية | Français | Русский

 Physical Science BasisWhen it comes to climate change, there has been a lot of talk the past few days about percentages (scientists who point to human causes), pauses (has warming slowed), and what it all means for policy and politics.

But, let’s be clear.

The latest report from the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change provides conclusive new scientific evidence that human activities are causing unprecedented changes in the Earth’s climate.

It buries the hatchet on “is it real” – the scientists say that it is extremely likely (95% probability) that most of the warming since 1950 has been due to human influence.

It pushes back on the skeptics’ claims that global warming stopped in 1998, and, most of important of all, it confirms that human activity, left unchecked, will further warm the Earth, with dramatic effects on weather, sea-levels and the Arctic.

This major international assessment of climate change, adopted Friday by the world’s governments, paints a blunt, clear picture of the scale of the problem before us.

Women at the Forefront of Climate Action

Rachel Kyte's picture
Also available in: Français | العربية | Español
 

Mussarat Farida Begum Mussarat Farida Begum runs a small teahouse in Garjon Bunia Bazaar, a rural community in Bangladesh. As part of a program which has helped Bangladesh reach more than 2 million low-income rural households and shops with electricity, she bought a solar home system for $457, initially paying $57, and borrowing the rest. She repays the loan in weekly installments with money she earns by keeping her now-lighted chai shop open after dark. Her business is booming and her family lives much more comfortably with their increased income. They now have electricity at home and their children can study at night.

Women like Mussarat are at the forefront of our efforts to secure development by tackling climate change. On the one hand, they are disproportionately vulnerable to the impacts of extreme events. But it is also women who can make a difference to change entrenched behaviors. It is their decisions as entrepreneurs, investors, consumers, farmers, and heads of households that can put our planet on a greener, more inclusive development trajectory.