Super Typhoon Haiyan is a wake-up call for UN Climate Summit

Jamie Henn writes: The timing is tragically ironic. As Super Typhoon Haiyan — one of the strongest storms ever recorded — smashes into the Philippines, sending millions fleeing for safety, negotiators from around the world are beginning to arrive in Warsaw, Poland for the latest installment of the United Nations Climate Talks, COP 19.

Climate change is loading the dice for extreme weather events like Haiyan. The storms strength and rapid development have been aided by unusually warm ocean waters and warm, moist air (warm air holds more water vapor than cold). Global warming also causes sea level rise, increasing the risk of flooding from storm surges, especially in low-lying areas like much of the Philippines. Carbon dioxide is the steroids that leads to grand-slam storms like Haiyan.

Haiyan should be a five-alarm wake up call for negotiators in Warsaw and the capitals that sent them here. Over the next two-weeks, despite the best attempts of the nations most vulnerable to climate change, negotiators from the largest emitting countries will bask under the fluorescent lights of yet another conference center to bicker, delay, and obfuscate. Meanwhile, millions of people in the Philippines — and other impacted communities around the world — will be sleeping in relief centers and bravely trying to rebuild their homes.

John Vidal writes: I met Naderev Saño last year in Doha, when the world’s governments were meeting for the annual UN climate talks. The chief negotiator of the Filipino delegation was distraught. Typhoon Bopha, a category five “super-typhoon” with 175mph winds (282km/h) had just ripped through the island of Mindanao. It was the 16th major storm of the year, hundreds of thousands of people had lost their homes and more than 1,000 had died. Saño and his team knew well the places where it had hit the hardest.

“Each destructive typhoon season costs us 2% of our GDP, and the reconstruction costs a further 2%, which means we lose nearly 5% of our economy every year to storms. We have received no climate finance to adapt or to prepare ourselves for typhoons and other extreme weather we are now experiencing. We have not seen any money from the rich countries to help us to adapt … We cannot go on like this. It cannot be a way of life that we end up running always from storms,” he said. He later told the assembly: “Climate change negotiations cannot be based on the way we currently measure progress. It is a clear sign of planetary and economic and environmental dysfunction … The whole world, especially developing countries struggling to address poverty and achieve social and human development, confronts these same realities.

“I speak on behalf of 100 million Filipinos, not as a leader of my delegation, but as a Filipino …” At this point he broke down.

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One thought on “Super Typhoon Haiyan is a wake-up call for UN Climate Summit

  1. eugene

    The thing I find most interesting is how successfully the media has sold “one of the strongest storms” when it is THE strongest storm to ever make landfall. I spent years as a licensed therapist dealing with people who routinely minimize their behaviors. To change from “the strongest storm” to “one of the strongest” is minimizing the storm and, therefore, climate change. I was monitoring as the storm hit with winds of 195 gusting to 235. One channel reported winds of 170 with another stating winds of 150. I’m getting old so figure I will never hear US media admit and responsibly report climate change. As to our “help”, I figure it will be like Haiti ie lots of wonderful words with, virtually, no follow through.

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