Climate change and increased environmental catastrophes such as Hurricane Iota

The passage of Hurricane Iota has caused serious damage in the region. Although 2020 broke records for the number of hurricanes in the Atlantic with 30 storms so far, this is the most powerful of the year.

The consequences in the archipelago of San Andrés and Providencia can account for this, since the arrival of this storm affected 99 percent of Providencia’s infrastructure. In turn, the hit of the hurricane caused flooding in 70 percent of Cartagena and left more than 150,000 victims in this city.

In context: Could tragedy in Providencia due to the passage of hurricane Iota have been avoided?

Ten municipalities of Chocó were also affected by the floods and landslides, as well as Antioquia, where the heavy rains caused by Iota left more than 10 people missing and three dead.

Satellite image of Hurricane Iota. Photo: Ideam

On the north coast of Nicaragua, although they managed to evacuate some 40,000 people early, winds of more than 250 kilometers per hour left serious damage. This, just two weeks after receiving Hurricane Eta, which left 200 people dead and entire crops devastated.

What happens? In addition to the pandemic, Natural disasters have been the order of the day in 2020. It is not something new, however, these events are becoming more frequent and devastating.

In January, the year began with the fatal fires in Australia that devastated nearly 12 million hectares, affected more than 3 billion animals and left 33 people dead.

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Later, both in the Brazilian Amazon and in California, United States, forest fires were once again protagonists because, due to the drought, strong winds and high temperatures, putting them out was almost impossible. In the case of Brazil, the flames destroyed more than two million hectares of the Pantanal, the largest wetland in South America, while in the case of the US east coast, the conflagrations devastated 1.6 million hectares and forced the evacuation of about 90,000 people.

Tropical storms, hurricanes and cyclones have not given a break either. The rains and winds are becoming stronger, leaving in their wake floods, landslides and often irreparable damage for the inhabitants of the affected regions.

The great responsible

The climate change is the main responsible for the doubling of natural disasters in the world in the first twenty years of this century, according to a recent report by the United Nations Organization.

According to the multilateral organization, these natural disasters have killed more than 1.2 million people since 2000. The data of the report indicates that between 2000 and 2019 there were 7,348 natural disasters, which cost 1.23 millions of lives, affecting 4.2 billion people, representing an approximate cost of global economic losses of 2.97 trillion dollars.

The study by the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR) indicates that rich nations have done little to deal with the polluting emissions that are linked to the climate threats that make up most of today’s climate disasters.

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“The covid-19 really sensitized governments and the public opinion in general about the risks that surround us. They can see that if the covid-19 is also terrible, the climate emergency can be even worse,” declared the secretary general of the UNDRR, Mami Mizutori, at a press conference. “If there is an ecological reactivation, we will only increase the climate emergency,” he insisted.

The report, which does not include epidemiological risks such as the coronavirus, shows that the progression of natural disasters is mainly linked to the increase in climatic catastrophes, which went from 3,656 (1980-1999) to 6,681 (2000-2019).

Human impact

“We are deliberately destructive. It is the only conclusion that can be reached when we review the catastrophes that have occurred over the last twenty years,” Mizutori condemned.

Floods have doubled and storms were the most frequent disasters in the past two decades. According to the report, floods accounted for 40 percent of total disasters affecting 1.65 billion people, followed by storms with 28 percent; earthquakes 8 percent and extreme temperatures 6 percent.

The floods leave millions of people affected each year and became one of the most frequent disasters of the last decade, according to the UN

Despite promises by the international community to reduce the global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, Mizutori called “disconcerting” the fact that nations continue. “consciously sowing the seeds of our own destruction, despite the evidence and proof that we are turning our only home into an uninhabitable hell for millions of people. “

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For the official, despite the fact that extreme weather events have become common events in the last twenty years, only 93 countries have implemented disaster risk strategies at the national level.

“Disaster risk management depends above all on political leadership and the fulfillment of the promises made when the Paris agreement and the Sendai Framework for disaster risk reduction were approved,” he said.

Heat waves, a serious problem

For the next ten years, the United Nations organization estimates that the most serious problem will be heat waves. In general, the death toll increased, from 1.19 million between 1980-1999 to 1.23 million between 2000-2019, although those affected by these natural disasters soared, from 3.250 million people to 4,000 million.

More lives saved but more people affected by the growing climate emergency. The risk of catastrophe is becoming systemic, “said Mizutori, urging the world to follow the recommendations of scientists and invest in prevention and adaptation programs to climate change.

The fires in California this year were stronger than on previous occasions. Photo: AP

Asia, where eight of the top ten countries with the highest number of disasters are located, is the worst hit region, followed by the American continent and Africa.

China and the United States are the countries that reported the highest number of disasters, followed by India, the Philippines and Indonesia. These countries have a relatively high population density in risk areas, the report indicates.

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The years 2004, 2008 and 2010 were devastating, with more than 200,000 deaths each. The 2004 tsunami in the Indian Ocean caused more than 220,000 victims, the deadliest.

The second largest incident occurred in 2010 in Haiti, when an earthquake measuring 7 on the Richter scale killed 200,000 people and injured 300,000. In 2008, Cyclone Nargis took the lives of 138,000 people as it passed through Burma.

The report also highlights that the average number of deaths in the world between 2000 and 2019 rose to about 60,000 a year, and that since 2010 there has been no “mega-catastrophe”, considering as such disasters where there are more than 100,000 deaths.

* With information from AFP and UN News

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