The annual United Nations climate change talks, which concluded last month in Warsaw, unfortunately found little common ground on carbon. The talks broke down over the world’s richest nations’ inability to agree with the poorest on how to address the financial costs of global climate change.
While disappointing, it’s not surprising. Developed countries like the United States and the nations of the European Union, which have wielded the largest carbon footprints over the past decades, are not as often the victims of climate-related disasters. In fact, the countries facing the most severe effects of climate change are often the poorest and most under-developed. They are forced to confront not only natural destruction but economic ruin.
Consider the Philippines, now recovering from Super Typhoon Haiyan, which devastated the country last month. The rate of sea-level rise in the Philippine Sea is one of the fastest in the world — nearly 12 millimeters per year. Yet the Philippines contributes less than 1 percent of the total CO2 emitted in the world annually. This demonstrates the stunning inequality of climate change.
Haiyan’s Category 5 storm conditions lasted 48 hours, with sustained winds of 195 miles per hour and gusts in excess of 220 miles per hour. Few buildings anywhere can withstand that kind of force. The typhoon is estimated to have cost the Philippine economy $14 billion; to say nothing of the tragic human cost, now estimated to be at least 5,000 lives.
Something must to be done to lessen the destructive impact of climate change.
As the planet warms and the international community slows in their response to climate change, these “super typhoons” will only become more common and more severe. Scientists believe that storms like Haiyan will come to represent the norm for typhoons and hurricanes.