‘Yolanda’-scale storms may be ‘the new normal’
WORLDWIDE weather disturbances of the scale of Supertyphoon “Yolanda” (international name: Haiyan) may be considered the “new normal,” according to international disaster and climate experts.
Margareta Wahlstrom, head of the United Nations Office for Disasater Risk Reduction (UNISDR), and Annick Girardin, French minister of state for development, noted that “Typhoon ‘Haiyan’ caused nothing short of a tsunami with waves over five meters high.”
In November 2013, the supertyphoon ravaged Eastern Visayas leaving over 6,000 people dead and an undisclosed number still missing.
In a joint statement issued during the World Climate Conference in Paris, Wahlstrom and Girardin cited other severe calamities including the drought that hit the United States, sparking numerous fires across California, a heat wave that killed over 2,500 people in India and hundreds more in Pakistan as temperature reached 50 degrees Centigrade, and the storms that devastated the Caribbean this autumn.
“Not to mention other less predictable, but no less alarming phenomena, such as the recent torrential rains in France which flooded a number of towns in the Riviera in a matter of hours, killing more than 20 residents, or in Japan, where abnormally heavy rainfall forced over 100,000 people to abandon their homes,” they said.
In the same statement, a copy of which was e-mailed to the Inquirer, Wahlstrom and Girardin pointed out that, “from now on, all disaster risk management policies must take due account of the new phenomena, including the known effects of El Niño and the rather less well-understood effects of the accelerated melting of the Antarctic ice cap.”
They also said that, since the Indian Ocean tsunami that killed about 30,000 people, “many countries have equipped themselves with multihazard early warning systems and are now better prepared for climate change.”
The large-scale deployment of early warning systems, like the French initiative called CREWS (Climate Risk Early Warning System), is “one of the seven targets of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction”—an international agreement forged in Sendai, Japan, in March.
Aside from early warning systems, land use planning, investment in durable infrastructure, ecosystem protection and poverty reduction policies all potentially serve to reduce the impact of climate change, said Girardin and Wahlstrom, who is also UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s special representative on disaster risk reduction.
The pair also stressed the need for greater political will and “commitment from the private sector, and increased global awareness from the civil society, to achieve that which is still possible—better management of the avoidable.”
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