Deja vu as COP20 negotiations overshadowed by destructive Philippines typhoon

Intro

The impacts of climate change appear to be escalating the damage that more than a million Filipinos are now dealing with as Typhoon Hagupit continues to dump massive amounts of rain over the island nation. The “agonizingly slow” pace of the storm, which is connected to climate change, means the city of Manila, which has 12 million inhabitants, could see as much of two feet of rain before the storm passes. Additionally, sea-level rise, caused by melting ice sheets and a number of other climate-related factors, is expected to compound that flooding. While the damage from this storm appears to be much less than last year’s catastrophic Typhoon Haiyan, which killed more than 6,000 Filipinos, the island nation remains especially vulnerable to more damaging typhoons, thanks to a trend of warming waters in the northwest Pacific Ocean. Hagupit shares one dubious distinction to Haiyan: the fact that it hit the Philippines as the UN climate negotiations are taking place. In fact, this is the third straight year this has happened. With national ministers and other high-level negotiators heading to the COP 20 meetings in Lima this Wednesday, Hagupit provides them with yet another clear signal of what the impacts of climate change will look like if they fail to hammer out a deal to transition the world from dirty energy to clean sources; while also finding ways to assist vulnerable parts of the planet with the increased costs of climate-fueled damage people and property.

 

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  • RT @RTCCclimatenews Typhoon Hagupit focuses minds in week two of UN #climate talks http://t.co/xZRnkkraDD #COP20 #Lima

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Key Points

  • Climate change makes Typhoons like Hagupit more destructive. Rising sea levels from melting ice sheets and other factors caused by higher global temperatures, create larger storm surges from typhoons. These strengthened storm surges mean that when low-lying places like the Philippines are hit with typhoons, they are hit harder putting people and property at increased risks. Sea levels have risen eight inches globally as a result of warming, which in turn makes storm surges more destructive. This, combined with the two feet of rain that result from the slowed pace of Hagupit means the storm is only made more destructive.
  • Climate change is contributing to a trend of stronger Typhoons in the Northwest Basin of the Pacific Ocean. While science relating to a global trend of increased typhoons remains incomplete, there is clear evidence that climate change is contributing to a trend of fewer but much more destructive typhoons near the Philippines. The damage from typhoons increases exponentially with stronger wind speeds. This means even though fewer storms may hit the Philippines in the future, the total destruction the island nation is vulnerable to will actually be larger. So, climate change is fueling a trend of substantially more destructive storms in a part of the world that is already extremely vulnerable to extreme weather events.
  • Hagupit is yet another example of why governments need to swiftly address climate. Over the next few days, negotiators meeting at COP 20 in Lima, Peru have the opportunity to craft a pathway towards a global agreement for tackling the climate crisis to be signed 12 months from now in Paris, France.

Background

Typhoon Hagupit, known locally in the Philippines as Ruby,on Haiyan,made its first landfall and continues to lash the central Philippines as a still formidable typhoon with potentially life-threatening winds, storm surge and flash floods.

A 78 mph peak sustained wind was clocked at Guiuan, at the southern tip of eastern Samar Saturday night. Bands of heavy rain lashed Samar and Leyte, including Tacloban City Saturday night. Over 716,600 were evacuated ahead of the typhoon as of early Saturday evening, local time, according to the Philippines National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council.

The Philippines is no stranger to tropical storms and typhoons. The archipelago borders the warm South Pacific where typhoons are born, and each year upwards of twenty hit the islands with fierce winds and tidal surges.

That being said, the timing of the storm is noteworthy because it comes almost exactly a year after Super Typhoon Haiyan stuck. Additionally, when Hagupit hits this weekend, it will be the third consecutive year when a massive Typhoon hits the Philippines during the UN Climate Negotiations.

As the UN climate negotiations were taking place Doha In 2012, Typhoon Bopha, locally known as Pablo, stuck the southern island of Mindanao, with winds reaching more than 138 mph (220 km), killing more than 500 and at leaving 250,000 homeless. This lead to Yeb Saño, member of the Philippines Climate Change Commission to saying, “Please … let 2012 be remembered as the year the world found the courage to … take responsibility for the future we want. I ask of all of us here, if not us, then who? If not now, then when?”

A year later, Saño, was once again at the climate talks, this time in Warsaw, Poland was even more emotional what he used his platform at Warsaw to say,”What my country is going through as a result of this extreme climate event is madness. The climate crisis is madness. We can stop this madness.”

Saño’s remarks brought the plenary session at Warsaw to tears. In Warsaw, Saño’s efforts went beyond words, he went on a hunger strike to put more pressure on the negotiations. A year later in Lima, Saño stayed in the Philippines, but his influence was felt as the first day of COP 20, began with a widespread Fast for the Climate.

The day-long fast will continue on the first of each month to draw attention to the need for the climate talks to produce a positive outcome for slashing harmful carbon emissions, which fuel climate change. In addition to the Fast for the Climate effort, earlier this year Philippine activists took part in a 40-day ‘Climate Walk’ aimed at spurring action on climate change as they urged governments to ‘walk their climate talk’.

From the starting point at ‘Kilometer Zero’ in Rizal Park, Manila, the group walked 1,000 kilometers to Tacloban, ground zero for Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda), on 8 November, exactly a year since the super Typhoon made landfall.

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Connecting typhoons to climate change

From Climate Nexus:

  • Climate change is known to make typhoons more intense in the western Pacific, while warming air is projected to increase typhoon precipitation rates globally (leading to worse flooding) by another 20% before the end of the century.
  • Sea levels have risen eight inches globally as a result of warming, which in turn makes storm surges more destructive–Hagupit is expected to have up to 16 ft of storm surge, a foot more than was predicted for Haiyan. Despite predictions of 15 ft, Haiyan experienced as much as 46 ft of storm surge, which does not bode well for Hagupit.
  • Due to ocean currents and winds on top of climate change, the Philippines is experiencing more sea level rise than anywhere else in the world- 60 centimeters since 1901 as opposed to the global average of 19cms.
  • Typhoon Hagupit is the seventh category 5 storm of 2014. Traditionally the typhoon season ended in October, but the past years have seen major typhoons in November and December, when ocean waters should be too cold to sustain such serious storms.

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Key Quotes

  • “In a cruel case of deja vu, as governments are gathering in Lima to discuss climate action, millions of people in the Philippines are again bracing for the brutal toll of an extreme weather event connected to man-made global warming. As diplomacy lumbers on, Hagupit, like Haiyan a year ago, is demonstrating the dire need for urgency, and the consequences of inaction for the world’s poor and vulnerable.” Naderev “Yeb” Saño, Commissioner, Climate Change Commission, Philippines.
  • “Nature does not discriminate. We actually have to wake up and smell the coffee. We need to understand we are running out of time.” Greenpeace global chief Kumi Naidoo.
  • “We are already seeing cases and flooding and some levels of landslides in different areas, particularly in the Sama area, where it first made landfall.” Justin Morgan, Oxfam country director for the Philippines.
  • “As we speak people are paying for our leaders lethargy with their lives and livelihoods.” Voltaire Alferez from Christian Aid
  • “In the Philippines we no longer debate and deny the impacts of climate change because we are experiencing them every year.” Voltaire Alferez from Christian Aid.

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