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Escalating humanitarian cost of climate change
by UNDRR, IFRC, CARE, agencies
Sep. 2019
New report estimates escalating humanitarian cost of climate change. (IFRC)
A new report by the world’s largest humanitarian network warns that the number of people needing humanitarian assistance every year as a result of climate-related disasters could double by 2050.
The Cost of Doing Nothing – published today by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) – estimates that the number of people in need of humanitarian assistance as a result of storms, droughts and floods could climb beyond 200 million annually – compared to an estimated 108 million today.
It further suggests that this rising human toll would come with a huge financial price tag, with climate-related humanitarian costs ballooning to over US$20 billion per year by 2030, in the most pessimistic scenario.
IFRC President Francesco Rocca said: “These findings confirm the impact that climate change is having, and will continue to have, on some of the world’s most vulnerable people. It also demonstrates the strain that increasing climate-related disasters could place on aid agencies and donors.”
“The report shows the clear and frightening cost of doing nothing. But it also shows there is a chance to do something. But now is the time to take urgent action. By investing in climate adaptation and disaster risk reduction, including through efforts to improve early warning and anticipatory humanitarian action, the world can avoid a future marked by escalating suffering and ballooning humanitarian response costs,” said Mr Rocca.
The Cost of Doing Nothing builds on the work and methodology of the World Bank’s Shock Waves report, and draws on data from the UN, the EM-DAT International Disaster Database as well as IFRC’s own disaster statistics. The report shows that we are facing a stark choice.
No action and costs are likely to escalate. Take determined and ambitious action now that prioritizes inclusive, climate-smart development and the number of people in need of international humanitarian assistance annually could in fact fall to as low as 68 million by 2030, and even drop further to 10 million by 2050 – a decrease of 90 per cent compared to today.
Julie Arrighi, an advisor at the Red Cross and Red Crescent Climate Centre, and one of the main contributors to the report, said: “In this report, we present some of the potential consequences should the global community fail to step up ambition to address the rising risks in a changing climate. It also shows some of the potential positive outcomes if indeed the global community takes action now to build resilience, adapt and address the current climate crisis''.
“We hope that this report helps build momentum during the upcoming Climate Action Summit and beyond to increase investment in inclusive, climate-smart development – including reduced emissions, but especially renewed efforts to adapt to the rising risks,” Ms Arrighi said.
May 2019
Time is running out for a world at risk. (UNDRR, IFRC, CARE, agencies)
The world faces new, emerging, and much larger threats than ever before, linked to climate change, environmental degradation, and the growing potential for one disaster to produce or exacerbate another, says a new report from the United Nations.
The Global Assessment Report 2019 (GAR2019) published by the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR) at the Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction, outlines major risks to human life and material property, ranging from air pollution and biological hazards, through to earthquakes, drought, and climate change.
“Extreme changes in planetary and socioecological systems are happening now; we no longer have the luxury of procrastination. If we continue living in this way, engaging with each other and the planet in the way we do, then our very survival is in doubt,” said Mami Mizutori, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General (SRSG) for Disaster Risk Reduction.
The report warns that unsustainable patterns of economic activity hide the build-up of systemic risks across sectors citing for example, dangerous overdependence on single crops in an age of accelerating global warming.
“We witness severe inequalities of burden sharing between low and high income countries, with the poorest bearing the highest toll and greatest costs of disasters. Human losses and asset losses relative to GDP tend to be higher in the countries with the least capacity to prepare, finance and respond to disasters and climate change, such as in small island developing States,” the report argues.
There is growing potential for one disaster to produce or exacerbate another as happens often in the case of heavy rains which trigger landslides and mudslides following wildfires or periods of long drought, says the new report launched at the Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction.
Disasters have strongly increased in both frequency and impact, with climate change as one of the main contributors to more extreme, frequent, and unpredictable weather.
Degradation and loss of ecosystems intensify natural hazards. Combined with the high vulnerability of communities in the Global South, this leads to increased disaster risk. Despite these many challenges, there are solutions to create a sustainable future. When provided the necessary resources, communities mobilize to adapt to and prepare for increasing risks.
The poorest people in the most vulnerable countries suffer disproportionately from disasters and climate change impacts. Disasters wipe out hard-won reductions in poverty, and communities are caught in a vicious circle where poverty creates vulnerability, and disasters and climate change impacts increase poverty.
Governments and businesses are investing far too little to protect poor communities at rising risk from wild weather and other threats, the heads of the U.N. disaster prevention agency and the Red Cross say.
Crisis-hit communities - as happened after Cyclone Idai killed hundreds and razed central areas of Mozambique''s coast in mid-March, leaving large swathes of land flooded, properties destroyed and hundreds of thousands of livelihoods devastated.
"Cyclone Idai was a reminder that the way we respond to disasters is out of balance," said Elhadj As Sy, secretary general of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC).
"Lack of investment to reduce and prevent disaster impacts results in more and more money needed to save lives and repair damages after the fact," Sy added in a statement.
Ahead of the Mozambique disaster, which left an estimated 1.85 million people in need of aid, the Red Cross released 340,000 Swiss francs ($337,000) in international funding to help evacuate and prepare communities in harm''s way.
But the cost of Red Cross and U.N. relief operations after the disaster added up to nearly 1,000 times more, or about 315 million Swiss francs, the humanitarian network said.
"Such a model doesn''t work for people who are at risk of storms and flooding. It''s also a model that doesn''t make financial sense, especially as we anticipate increased weather-related disasters as a result of climate change," said Sy.
Measures aid agencies use to safeguard people include putting in place systems to warn them of danger - whether via mobile phone messages or megaphones - as well as designating robust public buildings as shelters, and positioning key supplies beforehand.
The Red Cross said there had been a shift in recent years towards investment focused more on addressing risk. But not enough of the money was reaching vulnerable communities in places most threatened by weather-related disasters. It called for more funding to protect those people from natural hazards, and help them adjust to shifts in the climate.
"This means investing more in early warning systems that reach the last mile," said Sy. "It also means investing more in local aid groups that are best placed to help people prepare."
Mami Mizutori, special representative of the U.N. secretary-general for disaster risk reduction, said that despite a target in the Sendai Framework, a 2015 global pact, to "substantially enhance" international aid to prevent disasters, "this is not happening".
"There is a lack of money in every aspect of dealing with disaster," said Mizutori ahead of the Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR).
Not enough money is being invested to help hospitals, homes and telecommunications systems withstand growing risks linked to climate change and other threats, Mizutori said.
Small island states, meanwhile, have been saddled with crippling levels of debt as they build back after powerful hurricanes because their higher income levels exclude them from accessing cheap loans, she added.
Six years before the adoption of the Paris Agreement, Global Assessment Report for Disaster Risk Reduction (GAR09) published a 20-point plan to reduce risk, and the first recommendation was to “accelerate efforts to avoid dangerous climate change” by agreeing an effective multilateral framework to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and policies for sustainable carbon budgeting.
Unfortunately, as the World Meteorological Organization’s Secretary-General, Petteri Taalas, recently highlighted, greenhouse gas emissions have only continued to rise year on year, despite the Paris Agreement and the rhetoric surrounding its implementation.
GAR09 appeared against the backdrop of the deaths of almost 140,000 people in Cyclone Nargis which hit a poorly prepared Myanmar in 2008. In China, 87,000 people died that same year - including thousands of schoolchildren - in the Sichuan earthquake which damaged or destroyed 21 million buildings.
This year’s GAR will appear against the backdrop of the humanitarian emergency triggered by Cyclone Idai and Cyclone Kenneth, two unprecedented storms that have affected millions of people, particularly in Mozambique where hundreds of lives were lost. These two events were made more likely by rising seas and the gradual warming of the southern Indian Ocean.
The biennial GARs have always emphasised that reducing disaster risk also helps to reduce poverty and to safeguard development gains in a world where it is estimated that 26 million people are pushed into poverty every year by disasters.
A key early finding from (GAR09) was that “global disaster risk is highly concentrated in poorer countries with weaker governance.
Particularly in low and low-middle income countries with rapid economic growth, the exposure of people and assets to natural hazards is growing at a faster rate than risk-reducing capacities are being strengthened, leading to increasing disaster risk”.
This is why the global plan for reducing disaster losses, the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, includes among its seven targets a specific goal to “substantially increase the number of countries with national and local disaster risk reduction strategies by 2020”.
It also recognised the everyday reality at the heart of disaster risk management. While most disaster mortality and damage to critical infrastructure is largely concentrated in small areas exposed to infrequent but extreme hazards (cyclones, tsunamis, earthquakes), low-intensity damage to housing, local infrastructure, crops and livestock is extensively spread within many countries and occurs very frequently (caused by floods, drought and heat stress).
Such damage represents a significant and largely unaccounted for facet of disaster impacts and is a key reason why the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction supports the creation of national disaster loss databases to encourage more targeted and accurate investment in resilient infrastructure and a deeper understanding of disaster risk.
This years assessment stakes a bold claim in a new space, moving beyond disaster risk in the singular to consider the systemic and pluralistic nature of risk: in multiple dimensions, at multiple scales and with multiple impacts.
It recognises that extreme change is taking place in planetary systems, and we must act if we are to survive as a species.

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Brazil: International alarm as fires, land clearing undermine the Amazon Rain Forest
by DW, Guardian, Global Voices, agencies
23 Aug. 2019
Brazil forest fires rage as farmers push into the Amazon.
Nearly 73,000 fires were recorded between January and August, compared with 39,759 in all of 2018, according to the latest figures from INPE, Brazil''s National Institute for Space Research, which monitors forest fires in the Amazon region. The number is the highest since records began, and an 83% increase on the number of fires in the same period last year.
Agence France-Presse reports, "Some 1,130 new fires were ignited between Friday and Saturday, according to Brazil''s National Institute for Space Research (INPE).
Brazil''s far-right President Jair Bolsonaro triggered global protests over his government''s policies and failure to take swift action to combat the flames.
The US TV network NBC reported: ''In less than a year, Bolsonaro has dismantled the country''s agencies tasked with protecting the environment and indigenous peoples. Consequently, deforestation in the Amazon rainforest has surged so much scientists warn the Amazon could begin transforming into a savannah incapable of serving any longer as one of the world''s greatest carbon sinks responsible for helping stabilize the global climate. In July, around 860 square miles of rainforest were destroyed according to Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research''.
Conservation group WWF said any further loss and destruction of this key carbon sink and biodiversity hotspot will affect us all. "If this vital ecosystem continues to burn," said WWF, "the implications for life on Earth will be astronomical."
Carlos Nobre, a senior researcher with the Institute of Advanced Studies at the University of São Paulo, blamed Bolsonaro for encouraging the destruction of the Amazon rainforest, which is often called "the lungs of the world" for its capacity to absorb carbon dioxide.
"The situation is very bad. It will be terrible," Nobre told the Guardian. "A very large number of these fires are due to the cultural push that ministers are giving. They are pushing deforestation because they claim it is good for the economy. Those who do illegal deforestation are feeling empowered."
Nobre said deforestation was on course to rise by 20-30% this year and was “very likely” to pass 10,000 sq km for the first time in more than 10 years. The trend has been worsening for several years, but it has accelerated under Bolsonaro, who has weakened the environment agency and expressed support for miners, farmers and loggers.
Amnesty International: "The responsibility to stop the wildfires that have been raging in the Amazon rainforest for several weeks now lies squarely with President Bolsonaro and his government," Kumi Naidoo, secretary general of the organization, said in a statemnt. "They must change their disastrous policy of opening up the rainforest for uncontrolled mining and farming, which is what has paved the way for this current crisis."
French President Emmanuel Macron said: "Our house is burning. Literally. The Amazon rain forest, the lungs which produces 20 percent of our planet''s oxygen is on fire".
He said the Amazon needed better management to end the “ecocide” that is going on in the rainforest. In further criticism of Bolsonaro, he told French news website Konbini: “We need to find a good governance of the Amazon. This means we need to involve NGOs and local populations much more than we do now, and we need to stop the industrial deforestation that is going on everywhere.”
UN secretary general, António Guterres, has also urged Brazil to take action. “In the midst of the global climate crisis, we cannot afford more damage to a major source of oxygen and biodiversity. The Amazon must be protected,” he said.
Pope Francis added his voice to the chorus of concern. "We are all worried about the vast fires that have developed in the Amazon," he said. "That lung of forests is vital for our planet."
German chancellor, Angela Merkel, said: “The extent of the fires in the Amazon area is shocking and threatening, not only for Brazil and the other affected countries, but also for the whole world”.
The vast majority of Brazilians want to protect the forest, according to opinion polls, but the government has prioritised business interests. In Brazil, a petition by the campaign group Avaaz asking the government to halt illegal deforestation has received 1.1m signatures. Federal prosecutors in Pará state are investigating why environmental inspections have declined and military police are absent from inspection operations, where they used to provide protection.
Some foreign governments and conservation groups are trying to deal directly with Brazilian state governments and NGOs rather than going through the national authorities.


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