Thursday, October 12, 2017

The poorest suffer the most


From Miami and Puerto Rico to Barbuda and Havana, the devastation of this year’s hurricane season across Latin America and the Caribbean serves as a reminder that the impacts of climate change know no borders. Category 5 hurricanes have brought normal life to a standstill for millions in the Caribbean and on the American mainland. HarveyIrma and Maria have been particularly damaging. The 3.4 million inhabitants of Puerto Rico have been scrambling for basic necessities including food and water, the island of Barbuda has been rendered uninhabitable, and dozens of people are missing or dead on the UNESCO world heritage island of Dominica. The record floods across Bangladesh, India and Nepal have made life miserable for some 40 million people.  More than 1,200 people have died and many people have lost their homes, crops have been destroyed, and many workplaces have been inundated. Meanwhile, in Africa, over the last 18 months 20 countries have declared drought emergencies, with major displacement taking place across the Horn region. For developed and middle-income countries the economic losses from infrastructure alone can be massive but for countries that are least developed the impact of disasters can be severe, stripping away livelihoods and progress on health and education. Changing climate that threatens only more frequent and more severe disasters.

 Fatalities and economic losses from severe weather are rising in many of the world's poorest countries as climate change and a lack of disaster preparedness worsen threats, risk experts said.
Over the last 35 years, 60 percent of weather-related deaths globally were among people who earn $1,000 a year or less, said Ernst Rauch, a strategy expert at German reinsurance firm Munich Re. Those deaths - from disasters such as storms, floods, extreme heat, droughts and forest fires - happened largely in some of the world's poorest countries, including Haiti, Afghanistan, Nepal, Somalia, Madagascar and Mozambique.
Many of these countries are also seeing the biggest losses from severe weather as a percentage of their GDP, Rauch said. A 2017 ranking by Verisk Maplecroft, a British risk analysis firm, put 50 countries in its "extreme" risk category, with poor and hurricane-exposed nations in the Caribbean, Central America and Southeast Asia among the most vulnerable. One measure that has worked well in many parts of the world is strengthening building codes. Buildings that can stand up to high winds or flooding can help reduce both deaths and economic losses, alongside shifting to hardier crops, using irrigation, building levies or moving flood-threatened people out of harm's way, Rauch said. Miami is working hard on expanding its flood protection programme; $ 400 million is earmarked to finance sea pumps, improved roads and seawalls. Yet, this level of expenditure is beyond the reach of most low-income countries that stand to lose large chunks of their GDP every time they are hit by floods and storms.
 Under the 2015 Paris Agreement to tackle climate change, richer nations have promised to raise $100 billion a year in funding starting from 2020 to help poorer nations cope with climate change impacts and adopt clean energy. But promised climate aid may not meet growing needs, particularly with major donors such as the United States pulling back from funding promises, the experts said.
Another challenge is that "climate finance" is being defined so broadly that, in Rauch's view, "not all the money is really making its way to reasonable solutions".

 During the last two years over 40 million people, mainly in countries which contribute least to global warming, were forced either permanently or temporarily from their homes by disasters. There is clear consensus: rising temperatures are increasing the amount of water vapor in the atmosphere, leading to more intense rainfall and flooding in some places, and drought in others. Some areas experience both. Rising and warming seas are contributing to the intensity of tropical storms worldwide. We will continue to live with the abnormal and often unforeseen consequences of existing levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, for many, many years to come.  Poverty, urbanization, inefficient land use, ecosystem decline and other risk factors amplify the impacts of climate change. 

Efforts to adapt to climate change and reduce disaster risk will require global cooperation on a previously unprecedented scale as we tackle the critical task of making the planet a more resilient place to the lagging effects of greenhouse gas emissions that we will experience for years to come. Restoring the ecological balance between emissions and the natural absorptive capacity of the planet is the long-term goal. It is critical to remember that the long-term reduction of emissions is THE most important risk reduction tactic we have, and we must deliver on that ambition. Capitalism cannot achieve this goal as we are already witnessing its deficiencies. Only a world socialist society can accomplish what is necessary.
Adapted and abridged from here

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