Catastrophe in Philippines highlights need for relief system

The destruction in the Philippines wrought by Typhoon Haiyan is the latest in a string of extreme weather events that have occurred over the past decade. As climate change continues unabated, these events have increased in frequency and impact. Unfortunately, most of the areas that get hit the hardest have the weakest infrastructure and the most underdeveloped economies to respond adequately.

Mayor of Tacloban Alfred Romualdez recently said that residents should flee the city. He said he was worried that the city would not be able to provide basic services and he feared the breakdown of law and order. Already, Romualdez had to choose between using the meager resources at his disposal to either provide food and water or to dispose of the dead bodies in the streets.

Now Naderev Sano, a delegate of the Philippines Climate Change Commission, is taking a stand. At the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Warsaw, Poland on Tuesday Nov. 12, Sano said he will be going on a hunger strike “until a meaningful outcome is in sight.”

According to The Guardian, researchers have found a definitive link between climate change and the rising intensity of storms.

According to professor Myles Allen of the University of Oxford, “The current consensus is that climate change is not making the risk of hurricanes any greater, but there are physical arguments and evidence that there is a risk of more intense hurricanes.” Specifically, rising water temperatures increase storms’ strengths, and rising water levels increase the risk of flooding.

Meanwhile, the developed countries chiefly responsible for the greenhouse gas emissions that drive global warming do not seem to be taking the talks seriously. Australia failed to send its environment minister, who preferred to stay home in order to work on the dismantling of Australia’s carbon tax.

A United States briefing on the Warsaw climate summit obtained by The Guardian revealed that the U.S. is worried that the typhoon will lead to extreme weather events dominating the talks. The U.S. opposed proposals of damage payments at last year’s talks in Qatar and insisted that any money should be referred to as “aid.”

The briefing shows that the U.S. is unwilling to participate in a meaningful discussion on remediating the effects of climate change.

Countries like the Philippines should not have to rely on humanitarian aid packages pieced together after each disaster. Rather, there should be a comprehensive compensation plan in which high-emission countries take financial responsibility for their role in causing climate change.

Developed countries, such as Japan, have the resources to rebuild after natural disasters like the 2011 earthquake and tsunami. Other countries depend on humanitarian aid pieced together after each disaster.

Developed countries’ consumption can serve as a cautionary example for nations in the midst of development. Rather than investing in the types of pollution-heavy industry that spurred China’s rapid growth, developing countries should look to greener and more sustainable initiatives.