Overview extreme weather
International response to climate crisis must speed up
The worst weather-related disaster hit Pakistan in the summer. About a third of the country was flooded due to unusually heavy monsoon rains. As our correspondent in Islamabad pointed out, Pakistan suffered the impacts of the human-made climate crisis, to which its people have hardly contributed. Pakistani policymakers, as Imran Mukhtar wrote, had irresponsibly failed to prepare the nation for the impacts in the course of at least a decade.
The media pay attention to things that happen suddenly, not slow-moving developments. Therefore, many people around the world are unaware of the Horn of Africa suffering devastating drought for the third year in a row. Humanitarian relief is needed, and experience shows that it should not only be linked to longer-term development, but peacebuilding efforts as well. Our contributor Christoph Schneider-Yattara who works for the Protestant agency Bread for the World, spoke of a “sustainable development nexus”.
As climate impacts worsen, more and more international support is needed. Burundi is one of the 20 countries that are most exposed to global heating. As a result, tens of thousands have been internally displaced in the past two years. The most important reason was flooding. State agencies and international organisations are making efforts, both to provide humanitarian assistance and to prevent further damage. On our platform, Mireille Kanyange shared her insights from Bujumbura.
All too often, smaller-scale disasters are not taken note of by international media. However, extreme weather conditions continue to haunt many parts of the world, causing local-level devastation. Agriculture is often affected. Our correspondent Ronald Ssegujja Ssekandi reported from Uganda.
Multilateral policymaking remains insufficient
Humankind has been aware of climate change for decades. The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change was agreed 30 years ago at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro. Nonetheless, we still do not have a grip on the problems. My colleague Jörg Döbereiner assessed the results of this year’s climate summit in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt.
In Rio in 1992, the consensus was to focus on mitigating climate change. The idea was that adapting to the phenomenon would be too expensive, require funds that would better be used to phase out fossil fuels. As action was inadequate, the international community had to put adaptation on the global agenda some 15 years later. We now know that adaptation efforts have been insufficient too, so it has become necessary to set up a fund for losses and damages.
The good news is that competent action actually makes a difference.
How insurance schemes and governmental social protection can help
Around the world, there are good examples of what needs to be done. Insurance policies can help, and promising progress has been made in the Caribbean archipelago, which is severely exposed to hurricanes. Marjorie Pons Piñeyro from the Dominican Republic assessed the situation for us.
More generally speaking, far too many people are not insured against climate risks, and that is especially so in low income countries. For things to change, the business environment must improve. A team of co-authors from the Munich RE foundation – Renate Bleich, Dirk Reinhard and Christian Barthelt – elaborated things on our platform.
Social protection systems help to shield vulnerable people from climate risks and reduce social disparities. The great challenge is that they tend not to exist where they are needed most. Stefan Beierl of GIZ discussed the implications in D+C/E+Z.
Physical infrastructure matters too, of course
To limit the impacts of global warming, infrastructure must improve in many places. The Ganges Delta is a region that has always been exposed to extreme weather events, and Bangladesh has made remarkable progress towards becoming climate resilient. Cyclones today claim far fewer lives than those of the past did – when the country’s population was actually smaller. Md Bodrud-Doza from the Dhaka-Based International Centre for Climate Change and Development (ICCCD) elaborated on what makes the difference.
Adaptation measures, of course, must not worsen other environmental problems. In particular, ecosystems must not be harmed. Nature-based solutions are therefore best. David Mfitumukiza of Uganda’s Makerere University told my colleague Jörg Döbereiner and me about African experiences in an interview.
German development agencies such as KfW Development Bank are keenly aware of global heating and the erosion of biodiversity being mutually reinforcing. This vicious circle must be broken, argues Svenja Schulze, Germany’s federal minister of economic cooperation and development.
On her behalf, these international development agencies are paying increasing attention to environmental issues. At the same time, it has become evident that domestic action is needed at home too. The food disaster in Germany’s Ahr Valley in the summer of 2021 would have been less devastating had the authorities learned lessons from previous events in Germany and other countries. In regard to civil protection, Germany can take a page from other countries, as Wolf R. Dombrowsky of Steinbeis University Berlin argued on our platform.
Moving beyond denial
The USA too is increasingly hit by weather-related disasters. Wildfires, heatwaves, hurricanes and floods are becoming more frequent, more dangerous and more costly. Nonetheless, conservative forces still deny the climate crisis. Katie Cashman, a Minnesota-based environmental activist believes it would be good to stop speaking of “natural” disasters when it is human-made climate change that is causing serious damages.
When Katie wrote her comment, US President Joe Biden’s climate agenda was still stuck in the Senate. The good news is that he has managed to make Congress pass ambitious climate legislation which should achieve at least 80 % of what he had proposed. That is enough to keep alive, but more must certainly happen.
IPCC, UNEP and other multilateral bodies sound the alarm
We have seen that lagging behind what is needed to be done proves costly. The big question is: Will policymakers heed the warnings? There is no lack of scientists sounding the alarm.
According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the 1.5 degree-Celsius limit will almost certainly be breached, at least temporarily. Our Indian colleague Roli Mahajan summarised its most recent global report on adaptation to global heating.
Other multilateral documents point in the same direction. Extreme weather is causing disasters. Mahwish Gul, who is based in Nairobi, read several publications of the UN Environment Programme on the matter.
We must not forget that the climate crisis is exacerbating other environmental problems. The core message of the second Global Land Outlook was that humanity must take urgent action to restore and protect land. Desertification and global heating are mutually reinforcing phenomena. Our Nigerian author Chimezie Anajama wrote about the Global Land Outlook, which was published by the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD).
So far, the editorial I wrote for the May issue of our Digital Monthly – the focus section dealt with extreme weather – has aged well. There really are no more excuses for not acting fast.
Hans Dembowski is the editor in chief of D+C Development and Cooperation / E+Z Entwicklung und Zusammenarbeit.