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The Philippines Is calling. Who Is Listening?

Typhoon Haiyan, known locally as Yolanda, made landfall on the eastern coast of the Philippines last Friday, November 8, 2013. As of today, more than 10,000 lives are known to have been lost. A total of 9.8 million people are now believed to have been affected by the storm as relief and rescue efforts continue to reach new areas along the storm’s destructive path.

Emergency assistance is urgently needed, and you can help survivors by joining the ongoing efforts of  agencies such as Catholic Relief Services.


Typhoon-haiyan
 Photo credit:Paula Bronstein/ Getty Images

It’s also important to look at the bigger picture. Droughts, floods, and other disasters that endanger millions of people at a time are increasingly common. For example, the Philippines is no stranger to typhoons or other natural disasters. But Typhoon Haiyan, the 24th storm to hit the country this year, is the most powerful typhoon in the country’s history. Last year, more than 1,000 people died in a single typhoon.

The increasing frequency of devastating weather events over the past decade is in line with the effects of global climate change as predicted by climate scientists. Extreme events such as Typhoon Haiyan and its impacts are sobering reminders to the international community that we cannot afford to procrastinate on climate action.

The feasibility of ending hunger and extreme poverty depends on the world’s ability to manage large-scale disasters linked to climate change as well as economic shocks such as food, fuel, or financial crises. All of these factors pose significant risks to the pace and sustainability of reducing poverty.

As the Philippines and the global relief community face the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan, UN climate talks are under way in Warsaw, Poland. The annual Conference of the Parties (COP 19) to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) runs from November 11-22. The climate change talks in Warsaw must mobilize the political will to begin doing what it will take to limit climate change.

Bold action is needed now.

Developed countries must show they are meeting their commitments under the climate convention. Vulnerable communities will be stuck in a grim cycle of ever-more-frequent, ever-more-destructive natural disasters unless the global community takes emergency measures to prevent the planet from becoming more than 2 degrees Celsius warmer than in pre-industrial times -- the absolute threshold for preventing the most nightmarish scenarios of the Earth’s future.

Faustine Wabwire

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