Oxfam: Climate change disaster displaces 1 person every 2 seconds, including in PH
MANILA, Philippines – The numbers are as alarming as the torrent of rain pounding loudly on windows and roofs at the height of Typhoon Tisoy—every 2 seconds, one person is displaced by climate change disaster in the world and the likelihood of that being a Filipino was high.
According to a Dec. 2, 2019 report of the international aid agency Oxfam, climate-fuelled disasters had been the “number one driver of internal displacements over the last decade.”
At least 20 million people every year are being forced out of their homes and that translates into one person every 2 seconds, the Oxfam report said.
It added that there are 10 countries where displacements driven by climate change are most prevalent. The Philippines is fourth on the list. The other countries are Cuba (1), Dominica (2), Tuvalu (3), Saint Maarten (6), Vanuatu (7), Fiji (8), Sri Lanka (9) and Tonga and Somalia (10).
The report noted several things that these countries share in common, among them stark poverty among large segments of their population.
“Around 80 percent of all people displaced in the last decade live in Asia –home to 60 percent of the world’s population and over a third of the people globally who are living in extreme poverty,” the Oxfam report said.
While climate change does not pick its targets, Oxfam said the impact of a climate gone berserk is most devastating in countries, including the Philippines, where millions of people live in abject poverty.
“The unequal impacts of the climate crisis are apparent across the globe,” said Oxfam.
“People in low and lower-middle-income countries,” it said, “are over four times more likely to be displaced by extreme weather disasters than people in rich countries such as the United States.”
“Around 80 percent of all people displaced in the last decade live in Asia –home to 60 percent of the world’s population and over a third of the people globally who are living extreme poverty,” the report said.
Although the devastation of climate change does not discriminate and “no one is immune,” Oxfam said its analysis “shows that people in poor countries, who bear the least responsibility for global carbon pollution, are most at risk.”
Of the 10 countries, including the Philippines, that face the “highest risk of internal displacement from extreme weather events globally,” seven are considered to be small island developing states, said Oxfam.
In Cuba, Dominica and Tuvalu, the report said, an average of 5 percent of the population is displaced by severe weather every year from 2008 to 2018.
While these poorer countries suffer the brunt of climate change disasters, their per capita greenhouse gas emissions were just a third of those in wealthier nations, according to Oxfam.
“The unequal impacts of the climate crisis are apparent across the globe,” said the report.
Chema Vera, acting executive director of Oxfam International, said governments around the globe “are fuelling a crisis that is driving millions of women, men and children from their homes.”
“The poorest people in the poorest countries are paying the heaviest price,” Vera said in a summary of the report.
The injustice doesn’t stop at the poor suffering more than the rich, according to the Oxfam report.
“Rich donor countries have largely left poor countries to cover the rising costs of extreme weather disasters themselves,” it said.
Hit on GDP
Oxfam said its analysis showed economic losses from climate change disasters in the last 10 years were “on average equivalent to 2 percent of national income” of countries stricken by these calamities.
In the Philippines, according to a USAID report, climate change-related disasters gobble up at least 2.2 percent of gross national product every year. It takes another 2 percent of GDP to rebuild lost infrastructure, according to another report by ClimateRealityProject.
For every severe weather event, the Philippines “takes a hit” equivalent to at least 4 percent of its GDP.
“When you’re a nation aspiring to grow and create better lives for your citizens, this regular hit to the economy is the last thing you can afford,” said ClimateRealityProject.
“That figure is much higher for many developing countries—up to an astonishing 20 percent,” said the Oxfam report.
“People are taking to the streets across the globe to demand urgent climate action,” Vera said.
“If politicians ignore their pleas, more people will die, more people will go hungry and more people will be forced from their homes,” he added.
Impact on PH
The Philippines’ place among countries most vulnerable to climate change disaster was carved out for it by many factors, including geography and the economic conditions of its people.
In its earlier report, ClimateRealityProject said the Philippines “has long been particularly vulnerable to extreme weather.”
But climate change started to rear its ugly head just recently, bringing more violent storms to Philippines shores, notably Typhoon Haiyan, which was given the local name Yolanda, according to ClimateRealityProject.
“Over the past decade, these tropical storms have struck the nation more often and more severely because scientists believe, of climate change,” the research group said.
Being at the western Pacific Ocean, the Philippines is naturally surrounded by warm waters that are getting warmer because of the continuing rise of sea surface temperatures, ClimateRealityProject said in its report.
While part of it is “a normal pattern” as ocean surface warms by absorbing sunlight, ocean surface temperature increases over time as a result of climate change is releasing more and more heat into the atmosphere.
“This additional heat in the ocean and air can lead to stronger and more frequent storms—– which is exactly what we’ve seen in the Philippines over the last decade,” said ClimateRealityProject.
Being a collection of more than 7,000 islands, the Philippines also “lacks natural barriers,” the report said.
“There is almost nothing standing between them and the sea,” it said.
While mangroves, which used to thrive in the Philippines, were among the best “buffers against typhoons”, deforestation has all but wiped out these natural barriers, the report said.
According to USAID, in one of its reports, the projected increase in temperature in the Philippines by the year 2050 ranged from 1.8 to 2.2 degrees centigrade, way above the 1.5-degree centigrade that UN experts said the world needed to bring temperatures down to prevent climate change catastrophe from reaching a point of no return.
According to the USAID report, climate change is reducing rainfall volume in the Philippines from March to May, “making the dry season drier.”
There would be an “increased frequency of extreme weather events, including days exceeding 35 degrees centigrade, days with less than 2.5 mm of rain and days exceeding 300 mm of rain,” the USAID report said.
More grim scenarios had been painted by the USAID report including a 10 percent decline in rice and corn yields for every 1-degree centigrade increase in average daily temperature.
In just seven years, 2006 to 2013, the USAID report said the Philippines was battered by 75 disasters, mostly cyclones, tropical storms and flooding, which brought $3.8 billion in “accumulated damage and losses to the agriculture sector.”
As Typhoon Tisoy pummelled large parts of the Philippines, the rain and wind in excess of 100 kph lashed out at hundreds of communities where the most vulnerable, the poor, live.
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