People's Stories Wellbeing

Climate Change is the ultimate ‘Threat Multiplier’
by Mercy Corps, FAO, UNISDR, agencies
Oct. 2018
Climate change is a major multiplier of disaster losses, by Mami Mizutori & Patricia Espinosa. (UNISDR)
Climate change is now a major multiplier of disaster losses worldwide. There has been a doubling of extreme weather events in the last twenty years withthe world experiencing some of the hottest years on record.
A new report published to mark International Day for Disaster Reduction, October 13, spells out clearly that 91% of major disaster events are extreme weather events and they account for 77% of the recorded economic losses from climate and geophysical events.
Total recorded economic losses for the last twenty years are significantly under-reported but come to a total of almost $3 trillion, according to an analysis of the global data base maintained by the Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED). And, a whopping $2,245 billion of that is attributed to climate-related disasters.
At the end of this year in Poland, governments are set to complete the implementation guidelines of the Paris Climate Change Agreement – a crucial step to ensure that the agreement can be truly effective.
The international community needs to support all nations in their efforts to develop national adaptation plans and to integrate climate change and disaster risk reduction fully into their development objectives.
For this, the developed country pledge of mobilizing $100 billion per year by 2020 for developing countries’ climate change efforts will be crucial.
This is a relatively small investment in light of the size of economic losses from extreme weather events.
Last year set a new record for economic losses caused by extreme weather events, notably floods and storms, which are aided and abetted by record rises in land and sea surface temperatures, rising sea levels and more vapor in the atmosphere.
Global mean temperatures last year were 1.1˚C above pre-industrial temperatures and the world’s nine warmest years have all occurred since 2005. Odds are that 2018 will become the 4th hottest year on record.
These profound changes often find expression in unspeakable tragedies such as the loss of lives, homes and livelihoods in wildfires. Droughts are contributing to a rise in world hunger for the first time in a decade.
Unprecedented levels of rainfall contribute to the loss of many lives in events such as the collapse of a hillside in Sierra Leone or a dam in Laos. Atlantic hurricane seasons can kill thousands of people. Typhoons in Asia force the evacuation of millions.
What these events are telling us is that the level of risk that already exists is being heightened in an unprecedented way by climate change.
The community of nations has recognized that measures to adapt to the inevitable impacts of climate change are just as important as cutting greenhouse gases.
The world requires an integrated approach to disaster risk reduction and tackling climate change. This means integrating implementation of the Paris Agreement and the global plan for reducing disaster losses, the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction.
The push agreed by UN member states to increase national and local strategies for managing disaster risk includes taking account of the impacts of climate change, poverty, rapid urbanization, environmental degradation and weak regulation of land use and construction.
The failure to adopt a risk-informed approach to social and economic development would have dire consequences in a world that is on course not for the desired 1.5C rise in temperatures but 3C+ at current levels of ambition.
The clock is ticking down. Only by fully translating strategies such as the Sendai Framework, the UN’s Sustainable Global Goals and the Paris Agreement into concrete action at all levels can we adequately protect the peoples of the world and the economies they depend on.
* Mami Mizutori is the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Disaster Risk Reduction and head of the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction. Patricia Espinosa is Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.
October 9, 2018
IPCC urges immediate action to stay below 1.5 degrees C of global warming, by Neal Keny-Guyer. (Mercy Corps)
The global humanitarian organization Mercy Corps urges governments and businesses to take urgent steps to stay below 1.5 degrees C of global warming or face greater suffering around the world, especially among the world’s most vulnerable people.
Mercy Corps’ call for action follows the publication of the most recent report by the Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change, which warns that without drastic and urgent change, the world will warm by about 1.5 degrees C over pre-industrial temperatures by as soon as 2040, causing more extreme weather events, droughts, flooding, heat stress, changing and unpredictable harvest seasons, and sea levels rises.
As communities and individuals become more desperate to survive, climate change becomes the ultimate “threat multiplier” and may ignite social disruption and violent conflict.
“Climate change is not a distant threat,” says Neal Keny-Guyer, CEO of Mercy Corps. “It’s a driver of fragility and conflict today, and this report is a frightening wake-up call. If we don’t take urgent and concrete steps now, the world we leave to our children will be hotter, hungrier and wracked by conflict.”
Mercy Corps has long worked with vulnerable communities and individuals to adapt to climate change. For example, in Timor-Leste, one of the hungriest countries in the world, frequent floods, landslides and droughts pose serious threats to food security. Good harvests are a matter of survival. The organization works with communities there to grow drought-resistant crops and build bamboo walls to protect gardens from landslides.
“Three out of four people on earth depend solely on agriculture,” says Keny-Guyer. “Climate change turns people’s lives into a desperate guessing game, and for these people, the effects of climate change are a matter of life and death.”
Keeping warming to within 1.5 degrees C is vital if the world is to mitigate and adapt to the worst effects of climate change. Therefore, Mercy Corps calls for increasing the use of renewable energy such as wind and solar; helping communities better plan ways to reduce risk from natural disasters; ensuring vulnerable communities have access to good weather data and early warning systems; and developing innovative financial systems for people who have lost their livelihoods. IPCC Summary (34pp):
# Breaking the link between extreme weather and extreme poverty - Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery.(GFDRR)
In 2013, an estimated one million Filipinos were plunged into poverty after Typhoon Haiyan sapped $12.9 billion from the national economy and destroyed over a million homes.
No sooner had the 2010 Cyclone Aila devastated coastal areas of Bangladesh than unemployment and poverty levels surged 49 percent and 22 percent, respectively.
Economic strains facing Guatemala after Hurricane Stan in 2005 forced 7.3 percent of affected families to send children to work instead of school.
Whenever disaster strikes, it leaves more than just a trail of devastation—it also leaves communities further in the grip of poverty.
And yet, when we hear of natural disasters today, their financial cost—that is, the damage inflicted on buildings, infrastructure, and agricultural production—is what catches the headlines. New research, however, suggests that reducing natural disasters to their monetary impact does not paint the whole picture. In fact, it distorts it.
That’s because a simple price tag represents only the losses suffered by people wealthy enough to have something to lose in the first place. It fails to account for the crushing impact of disasters on the world’s poor, who suffer much more in relative terms than wealthier people.
Through this lens, a report released by the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR), warns that natural disasters are a greater impediment to ending global poverty than previously understood. Launched at COP22, the report, Unbreakable: Building the Resilience of the Poor in the Face of Natural Disasters underscores the urgency for climate-smart policies that better protect the world’s most vulnerable.
“Severe climate shocks threaten to roll back decades of progress against poverty,” said World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim. “Storms, floods, and droughts have dire human and economic consequences, with poor people often paying the heaviest price. Building resilience to disasters not only makes economic sense, it is a moral imperative.”
Compared to their wealthier counterparts, poor people are more likely to live in fragile housing in disaster-prone areas, and work jobs in sectors dangerously susceptible to extreme weather events, like farming and agriculture. They also receive much less government and community support for recovery. The result: the impact of a storm, flood, drought or earthquake is more than twice as significant for poor people than anyone else.
For example, when unprecedented floods affected Mumbai in 2005, poor people lost 60 percent more than their richer neighbors—and when poor people lose the little they have, there are immediate and sometimes irreversible consequences for their health.
In Ecuador, poor children exposed in utero to El Niño flooding in 1997-1998 were found to have relatively lower birthweights, shorter statures, and impaired cognitive abilities.
Proposing a new measure for assessing disaster-related damages—one that factors in the unequal burden on the poor—Unbreakable shows that natural disasters currently cost the global economy $520 billion (60 percent more than is usually reported) and force some 26 million people into poverty every year.
However, Governments can prevent millions of people from falling into extreme poverty by enacting measures that better protect the poor from natural disasters.
The report proposes a “resilience policy” package that would help poor people cope with the consequences of adverse weather and other extreme natural events. This includes early warning systems, improved access to personal banking, insurance policies, and social protection systems (like cash transfers and public works programs) that could help people better respond to and recover from shocks.
Unbreakable also calls on governments to make critical investments in infrastructure, dikes, and other means of controlling water levels, and develop appropriate land-use policies and building regulations. These efforts must be specifically targeted to protect the poorest and most vulnerable citizens, not just those with higher-value assets.
The report assesses the expected benefits from these policies in 117 countries. If Angola, for example, were to introduce scalable safety nets to cover its poorest citizens, the government would see gains equaling $160 million a year. Globally, these measures combined would help countries and communities save $100 billion a year and reduce the overall impact of disasters on well-being by 20 percent.
“Countries are enduring a growing number of unexpected shocks as a result of climate change,” said Stephane Hallegatte, a GFDRR lead economist and lead author of the report. “Poor people need social and financial protection from disasters that cannot be avoided. With risk policies in place that we know to be effective, we have the opportunity to prevent millions of people from falling into poverty.”
* Access the report:
# Drought is among the most devastating of natural hazards – crippling food production, depleting pastures, disrupting markets, and, at its most extreme, causing widespread human and animal deaths. Droughts can also lead to increased migration from rural to urban areas, placing additional pressures on declining food production. Herders are often forced to seek alternative sources of food and water for their animals, which can create conflict between pastoral and farming communities.
In recent years, droughts have resulted in some high-profile humanitarian disasters – including the crises in the Horn of Africa (2011) and the Sahel (2012) regions, which threatened the lives and livelihoods of millions of people. In 2015-16 El Nino drought conditions impacted over 50-100 million people across the world, with El Nino weather events predicted to double in frequency at 1.5C warming in the coming years. The greater frequency of droughts and more erratic nature of rains in many countries, has meant that droughts have an increasingly destructive impact on at-risk populations.

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The death toll from a earthquake and tsunami in Indonesia has risen to over 1,700
by Red Cross, Jakarta Post, IRIN, agencies
7 Oct. 2018
Earthquake Death toll now exceeds 1700, as many as 5,000 missing. (AFP/SBS News)
Indonesia''s disaster agency has provided updated figures on the number of people missing and the official death toll. As many as 5,000 people are believed missing from the quake and tsunami that struck Indonesia''s Palu city, an official said, an indication that far more may have perished in the twin disaster than the current toll suggests.
Indonesia''s disaster agency say they have recovered 1,763 bodies so far from the 7.5-magnitude and subsequent tsunami that struck Sulawesi on September 28.
But there are fears that two of the hardest-hit neighbourhoods in Palu -- Petobo and Balaroa -- could contain thousands more victims, swallowed up by the ground as it engulfed whole communities.
"Based on reports from the (village) heads of Balaroa and Petobo, there are about 5,000 people who have not been found," agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho told reporters Sunday.
"Nevertheless, officials there are still trying to confirm this and are gathering data. It is not easy to obtain the exact number of those trapped by landslides, or liquefaction, or mud."
Nugroho said the search for the unaccounted would continue until October 11, at which point they would be listed as missing, presumed dead.
The figure drastically increases the estimates for missing people since the disaster struck 10 days ago. The latest tally speaks to the considerable destruction in the worst-hit areas of Petobo and Balaroa as the picture on the ground has become clearer.
Petobo, a cluster of villages in Palu, was one of the worst-hit by the powerful quake and wall of water that devastated the coastal city.
Much of it was sucked whole into the ground as the vibrations from the quake turned soil to quicksand in a process known as liquefaction.
It was feared that beneath the crumbled rooftops and twisted rebar, a vast number of bodies remain entombed.
In Balaroa, a large government housing complex was also subsumed by mud and rescuers have struggled to extract bodies from the tangled mess in the aftermath of the disaster.
Hopes of finding survivors have all but faded, as authorities moved closer to calling off the search for the dead and declare the devastated areas as mass graves.
"This is Day 10. It would be a miracle to actually find someone still alive," Muhammad Syaugi, the head of Indonesia''s search and rescue agency told AFP.
3 Oct. 2018
International efforts to help survivors of Indonesia''s devastating earthquake and tsunami gathered pace on Thursday as concern grew for hundreds of thousands with little food and water, six days after disaster struck.
Desperate residents on the west coast of Sulawesi island were scavenging for food in farms and orchards as the government struggled to overcome shortages of water, food, shelter and fuel in a disaster zone with no power and degraded communications.
The official death toll from last Friday''s 7.5 magnitude quake has risen to 1,407, many killed by tsunami waves it triggered. Officials say the toll will rise.
According to the UN''s humanitarian office almost 200,000 people need urgent help, among them tens of thousands of children, with an estimated 66,000 homes destroyed or damaged by the 7.5-magnitude quake and the tsunami it spawned. Up to 1.5 million people have been impacted.
The World Health Organisation has estimated that across Donggala alone, some 310,000 people have been affected by the disaster.
Survivors are battling thirst and hunger, with food and clean water in short supply, and local hospitals are overwhelmed by the number of injured.
Residents in the earthquake and tsunami-ravaged city of Palu are facing a shortage of necessities such as food, water and petrol, local authorities reported. Desperation on the ground continues to mount as aid is slow to reach the community four days after the disaster, hit the Indonesian island of Sulawesi.
UN Resident Coordinator in Indonesia Anita Nirody said there was an urgent need for food, clean water, shelter, medical care, and psychosocial support.
"Following the disaster, roads and bridges have been destroyed, communication lines are down, and landslides have left many areas inaccessible," she said in a statement. "As a result, it has been difficult to get information about the situation on the ground out, and to get aid and people in."
Many of the casualties have been in Palu, the main city in the disaster zone, where rescuers are hunting for victims in the ruins. The quake triggered tsunami waves as high as six metres that crashed into the city.
The magnitude-7.5 earthquake and following tsunami that struck the island of Sulawesi last week, has destroyed thousands of buildings and affected more than 2 million people.
Many of the dead are from Palu, but as relief and rescue teams have made their way to other badly hit districts near the epicentre of the earthquake, the death toll is expected to rise.
International Red Cross spokesman Matthew Cochrane said aid and relief teams had reached smaller villages closer to the earthquake''s epicentre, where many people had been cut off from supplies.
"One village in Sigi … half of the buildings have been totally levelled," Mr Cochrane told news agencies. "I think as we continue to push out into those affected areas the fear is that we are going to see more and more of those kind of stories."
He said that in terms of finding survivors, there was a 72-hour window, meaning that at this stage the operation is starting to move towards recovering bodies and providing assistance to survivors.
"Our focus is very much on survivors, making sure that people who have injuries, people who are beginning to get sick because they don''t have access to clean water, basic sanitation, or access to food are helped," he said.

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