Thursday, November 14, 2013

What does Typhoon Haiyan tell us about adapting to climate change?

The Toronto Star asked "how much of the tragedy [of Typhoon Haiyan] was caused by nature, and how much was caused by human actions?"

Here was my answer:

Canada and other developed countries are good at disaster relief. When news of Typhoon Haiyan reached our shores, the Canadian government and the Canadian people opened their wallets and their hearts. Disaster relief, however, is a band-aid, not a cure. If we want to adapt to a climate with higher storm surges, more intense rainfall and stronger winds, we need to be proactive, not reactive. We need to provide the resources to build the knowledge, institutions and infrastructure to help make countries like the Philippines more resilient to future storms. That project requires consistent, long-term technical, political and financial support.

At the UN climate talks two years ago, the developed countries promised to mobilize $100 billion/yr by the year 2020 to help the developing world respond to climate change. Right now, we are nowhere near that target. The devastation of Typhoon Haiyan should serve as an example to the negotiators at this year’s climate talks in Warsaw of that consistent, long-term support for adaptation in the developing world is so necessary.