Amid deadly flooding in Kerala, the Carolinas, and the Philippines, a biologist and award-winning journalist challenges the status quo in climate change solutions.
In Kerala in southern India, catastrophic floods left nearly 500 people dead and millions homeless.
In the Carolinas in the United States, Hurricane Florence is dumping trillions of gallons of water, causing widespread destruction and dozens of deaths.
In the northern Philippines, Super Typhoon Mangkhut triggered more than 40 deadly mudslides and took just as many lives.
The severity of the devastation in India, the United States, and the Philippines can be linked to climate change and human choices.
It’s undeniable that the earth’s average temperatures have risen over the past six decades. A new World Bank report, “South Asia’s Hotspots,” warns that temperatures in Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka have already surpassed their optimal limits. Higher temperatures mean there is evaporation from the land and the sea into the atmosphere—and more weather volatility.
As we recover from the Kerala floods, Hurricane Florence, and Typhoon Mangkhut, it’s imperative that we recognize the interconnected impact of climate change and make smarter decisions as a result.
The impact of climate change is widespread and varied
Did you know: more than four million jobs have been impacted by the Kerala floods thus far, and 3.3 million of them are in jeopardy? Tourism is expected to see a decline, at least in the short term, with structural damages pegged at $3.7 billion. The insurance claims are surging, and the overall economic damage is still being calculated.
In the past decade, total economic losses related to global climate change have reached $1.4 trillion, with 1.7 billion people afflicted and 700,000 dead. Of graver concern is the ominous World Health Organization prediction that climate change will cause an additional 250,000 deaths per year between 2030 and 2050.
Climate change is bound to deepen poverty.
In the long term, it will manifest as reduced crop yields, increased aridity, decreased water quality, and rising sea levels, according to forecasts from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Meanwhile, the World Bank warns that such extreme weather events will become more common, impacting people’s livelihoods in unprecedented ways, including vector-borne disease outbreaks and forced migration.
Stagnant flood waters create the perfect breeding ground for disease-carrying mosquitoes. Studies in Vietnam concluded that dengue outbreaks are associated with higher rainfall, humidity, and high temperatures. And natural disasters have a spill-over effect on migration. The number of people seeking asylum from 103 countries increased when seasons and temperatures changed from an optimal value of about 20 degree celsius, according to the study “Asylum Applications Respond to Temperature Fluctuations.”
World leaders can no longer take a business as usual approach.
Local solutions are overlooked
Solutions to climate change will and should vary based on location and country contexts, “South Asia’s Hotspots” emphasizes. “Investing in skills, health, knowledge, better infrastructure, and a more diversified economy should reduce climate hotspots at the household and community level,” the report states.
Community-led nonprofits—like the nonprofit I lead and thousands of others that are part of the GlobalGiving community—are best positioned to lead local solutions to climate change in cross-cutting areas. Yet, these very organizations are often overlooked and underfunded in international development, getting less than 2% of global humanitarian funding.
To quickly and effectively reverse the threat of climate change, investing in community-led capacity is critical.
What happens to one happens to the whole. It’s time to connect the dots and make global-local alliances to mitigate the crisis, rather than deny the obvious and march along with the status quo.
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Featured Photo: Provide Kerala Flood Relief for 500 Families by Priyadarshini Seva Mandali