September 2010: Is the increase of weather triggered disasters just bad luck?

Is the increase of weather triggered disasters just bad luck?

By Ross Mountain

At the time of Hurricane Katrina many people felt that this exceptional weather phenomena could be linked to climate change, but there was no clear evidence it was said. Since then, there have been multiple weather-related disasters. This summer we have had the phenomena of unprecedented floods in Pakistan, with less publicised consequences of floods in neighbouring countries including China and India. And massive forest fires have broken out in Russia due to extreme drought.

While scientists may not have conclusive proof that this is result of climate change, one is inclined to cite the aphorism that if it waddles like a duck, quacks likes a duck and looks like a duck, it is just possible it might be a duck! Climate change is likely to be a major factor in all this!

The destruction in Pakistan witnessed by the better off of the world on their television sets is breathtaking. Fortunately the death toll is nowhere near the dimensions of the Haiti earthquake, but the disruption of lives and livelihoods and the illness and misery has affected an estimated 18 million people, with 8 million being in need of emergency assistance across the country.

In respect of the Haiti earthquake, it has been said that its magnitude was unforeseeable and no preparation would have been adequate. Yet, we know that more effort to build local capacity and impose building standards would have saved thousands of lives. What are the lessons we should draw from Pakistan, which has had to face repeated natural disasters?

Perhaps an important one is the need to recognize that this is not an isolated geographical phenomena limited to one country or a small group of countries. Weather triggered disasters are becoming more and more frequent, consistent with the science of climate change. Should this not be understood as further evidence of the importance of progress in international negotiations on climate change being taking seriously by all? Especially in the wake of the disappointment of Copenhagen? Climate change is not just a complicated, abstract issue to be discussed by diplomats and bureaucrats in conference rooms. It has a dramatic impact on human lives around the globe- and most particularly the poor and vulnerable.

It is for this reason that DARA has launched the Climate Vulnerability Initiative (CVI) in conjunction with the government of the Maldives, in its capacity as convener of the Climate Vulnerable Forum (CVF). The Forum is a partnership of countries whose populations are being and will be most seriously affected by this climate phenomena. They also aim to bring strongest and most constructive commitment to the resolving this crisis.

DARA is producing a major new report on how this phenomena is having an impact on human beings – especially in poor countries, and to support the leaders of the Forum in bringing the message of urgency to international negotiations. We pay tribute in particular to the work of Former UN Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, whose efforts at the Global Humanitarian Forum spurred much debate on this topic upon which we now build. At the same time, we all must recognize that change is already happening. It is now only a question of how bad the consequences will be and thus we are also highlighting the importance of adaptive and preventive measures to safeguard populations.

In this way, DARA with its partners in this Initiative is seeking to highlight for a public lost in the technicalities, the real human consequences of climate change now manifest and thus the importance of immediate action being taken. The work is also aimed at senior policy-makers with a view to better targeting responses to needs on climate change.

We invite other partners to join with us in this effort to make a major difference in both the lives of millions and in the post-Copenhagen international negotiations that need to be accelerated.