“The impacts of global warming are already killing people and devastating lives and livelihoods every year and it will only get worse without immediate and determined action. The frequency and intensity of climate events are increasing substantially, with more category four and five storms, more record-breaking heatwaves and heavy rains, among many other extremes. Loss of natural resources, food insecurity, direct and indirect health impacts and displacement are likewise on the rise. Many communities are being affected by concurrent and consecutive disasters, leaving them with little time to recover before the next shock arrives.”
This is the chilling introduction to The World Disasters Report 2020 published by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. We have all heard of the International Red Cross and seen their medical and rescue staff helping disaster-ravaged populations. Quoting from their mission statement, they are “a global humanitarian organisation, which coordinates and directs international assistance following natural and man-made disasters in non-conflict situations. Their mission is to improve the lives of vulnerable people by mobilising the power of humanity”. These are good people on the front line. We should listen to what they have to say.
When I came across this report I was dismayed, but not surprised, that it was not given more attention by the media and policymakers. The irony that I am saying this in a newspaper article is not lost on me. Certain newspapers are more aware than others but still not sufficiently alarmed by the ecological emergency we are in the middle of.
Preoccupied as we all are with the coronavirus outbreak, we are overlooking the fact that another far bigger and immensely more catastrophic emergency has been building up for many decades. This is the sixth mass extinction of life on earth caused by sustained and worsening extreme overland weather conditions and ocean temperature changes, by loss of ocean oxygen and changing currents as a result of atmospheric global warming, by biodiversity losses directly attributable to human overkill, ice loss, deforestation, degradation, destruction and pollution of wild land and marine habitats, such as forests, grasslands, coral reefs, wetlands and the ocean.
There are a number of ongoing ecological emergencies feeding into each other, creating an exponentially accelerating existential threat for us all and all other species.
Catastrophic climate change caused by global warming is not a topic to debate as a future possibility. It is already with us
The report deals with one aspect of the ongoing ecocide which is the extreme weather caused by atmospheric global warming. We should give particular attention to this report as it provides evidence that catastrophic climate change caused by global warming is not a topic to debate as a future possibility. It is already with us. There is a time to talk and a time to act. Some say it is actually time to panic and I am beginning to think they are right.
The report states: “Climate change is not waiting for the virus spread to be brought under control. Many people are being directly affected by the virus infection and climate-driven disasters all at once and the world’s poorest and most vulnerable are being hit first and hardest. Over one hundred disasters took place between March and September 2020 and over fifty million people were affected. Ninety-nine per cent of people affected were impacted by extreme climate- and weather-related disasters. So, we may well be ‘busy’ with the virus but there’s still never been a more urgent time to act.”
The disasters that were triggered by extreme weather and climate-related events such as floods, storms and heatwaves increased by seven per cent to 83 per cent of total disasters caused by natural hazards when compared to the previous 10 years.
The number of such disasters has been increasing since the 1960s and has risen almost 35 per cent since the 1990s. These extreme weather- and climate-related catastrophes have killed more than 410,000 people in the past 10 years. Heatwaves and then storms have been the biggest killers. A further 1.7 billion people around the world have been affected by climate- and weather-related extreme events during the same period.
If we do not intervene with bold and determined actions, the occurrence of these events will both accelerate and multiply. We can then expect not only less time to recover between disasters but that multiple disasters will happen all at once. The report explains that “the dangers of cyclones, flooding, droughts, fires or heatwaves did not retreat while the world was adapting to the coronavirus spread” and predicts that, in the next 10 to 30 years, we will experience massive human migrations, food insecurity and loss of livelihoods, damage to property, injury and loss of life and “the likelihood that many people will be pushed beyond their ability to cope”.
This last circumstance is one of the final stages of the extinction process for populations. It continues to say: “The number of people affected by the climate- and weather-related disasters is rising and will continue to rise unless we take action on both climate change adaptation and mitigation.”
Evidence from the report confirms that humanity as a whole has already begun to experience the first stages of the extinction process that we have perpetrated and continue to inflict on other species.
The Word Disaster Report 2020 goes further and predicts that feedback loops and tipping points will cause the extinction of entire human populations within our lifetime.
This is the danger we are facing. Business leaders and policymakers must listen and act now.