Typhoon that devastates Philippines linked to climate change

Typhoon that devastates Philippines

Guardian columnist John Vidal writes that the strength of a typhoon like Haiyan – that killed at least 10,000 people, displaced 480,000 others, and left a path of destruction in its wake in the Philippines on Friday – is linked to sea temperature. "As the oceans warm with climate change, there is extra energy in the system. Storms may not be increasing in frequency but Pacific ocean waters are warming faster than expected, and there is a broad scientific consensus that typhoons are now increasing in strength."

"Typhoon Haiyan, like Bopha [the tropical storm that killed more than 600 people around this time last year on Mindanao, the second largest island in the Philippines] will be seen widely in developing countries as a taste of what is to come, along with rising sea levels and water shortages. But what alarms the governments of vulnerable countries the most is that they believe rich countries have lost the political will to address climate change at the speed needed to avoid catastrophic change in years to come."

Undoubtedly this view applies to Canada. Earlier this week, a United Nations report slammed Canada for being significantly off course on its (already inadequate) 2020 target for carbon emissions by about 110 million tonnes. Jennifer Morgan, one of the authors of the report, stated, "Canada doesn’t seem to fully grasp the risk that climate change poses to it and its people in its approach to climate change... It is very important that countries like Canada meet its targets not only for atmospheric reasons – I mean the need to reduce emissions in the atmosphere – but also because of the signal that it sends to others. Canada is a wealthy country. It certainly has the resources to do it."

Vidal adds, "From being top of the global political agenda just four years ago, climate change is now barely mentioned by the political elites in London or Washington, Tokyo or Paris. Australia is not even sending a junior minister to Warsaw [for the United Nations climate talks that begin there tomorrow]. The host, Poland, will be using the meeting to celebrate its coal industry. The pitifully small pledges of money made by rich countries to help countries such as the Philippines or Bangladesh to adapt to climate change have barely materialised. Meanwhile, fossil fuel subsidies are running at more than $500 billion a year, and vested commercial interests are increasingly influencing the talks."

Climate justice campaigner Andrea Harden and I met Vidal one late evening in 2010 on a shuttle bus departing the conference centre where the COP 16 talks were taking place on the outskirts of Cancun, Mexico. I very much appreciate the honesty of his reporting. His column can be read in full here.