Cyclone Idai lays bare the fundamental injustice of climate change

A humanitarian catastrophe is underway in Mozambique, Malawi,
and Zimbabwe as the full scale of devastation from Cyclone Idai
becomes more clear.

The World Meteorological Organization said Idai, which made
landfall five days ago, could become
the worst tropical cyclone on record in the Southern Hemisphere.
Mozambique President Filipe Nyusi fears that 1,000 people may have
died in his
country alone
. The U.N.’s World Food Program
called it
“a major humanitarian emergency that is getting
bigger by the hour.”

The
initial post-storm reports
are harrowing: 90 percent of Beira,
Mozambique — a city of more than 500,000 people — has been
destroyed by floodwaters. The first aid workers to reach the
hardest-hit areas
found people clinging to trees and rooftops
, awaiting
rescue
, with waters still rising. Social media posts from
Zimbabwe showed people swept
away on flooded roads
and aerial
images in Mozambique showed countless homes underwater
. Nearly
3 million people have been affected across the region, one of the
poorest in the world.

Cyclone Idai is not a natural disaster; the storm was made worse
by climate change, centuries of colonialism, and continuing
international injustices.

There are at least three major ways that the Mozambique floods
are related to climate change: First, a warmer atmosphere holds
more water vapor, which
makes rainfall more intense
. Idai produced more than two feet
of rainfall in parts of the region — nearly a year’s worth in
just a few days. Second, the region had been
suffering from a severe drought in recent years
in line with
climate projections of
overall drying in the region
, hardening the soil and enhancing
runoff. Third, sea levels are about a foot higher than a century
ago, which worsens the effect of coastal flooding farther
inland.

“Cyclone Idai is a clear demonstration of the exposure and
vulnerability of many low-lying cities and towns to sea-level rise
as the impact of climate change continues to influence and disrupt
normal weather patterns,” said Mami Mizutori, the U.N.’s
Special Representative for Disaster Risk Reduction, on Monday.

What’s worse, after years of drought, food supplies were
already running low, with
disproportionate impacts on children
— the rates of child
labor and forced marriages had been edging upwards. With hundreds
of square miles of farmland now underwater, there is slim hope for
a quick recovery.

It’s difficult for those of us in wealthier countries to
imagine a disaster like this because we have built a society that
is, in part, designed to protect us from extreme weather. Cyclone
Idai is a humanitarian crisis that once again lays bare the
fundamental injustice of climate change.

During four centuries of colonial rule, Mozambique was used

as a source of slaves, mines, and plantation agriculture
. The
nation gained independence from Portugal in 1975 after a 10-year
long revolutionary war. A devastating 15-year civil war followed
shortly thereafter. But the war’s legacy lasts. Mozambique
ranks 180th
out of 189 countries
in the U.N.’s Human Development Index
— a measure of life expectancy, education, and economic
prosperity — the lowest of any cyclone-prone country in the
world.

Decades of dictatorship and unrest followed British colonization
in neighboring Zimbabwe and Malawi. All three countries are among
the poorest in the world.

And climate change makes it even more difficult to rebound: In
his address to world leaders at the Paris climate summit in 2015,
then-Prime Minister of Mozambique Carlos Agostinho do Rosario spoke
of his country’s flood risk: “These weather phenomena affect
the government’s efforts to meet national priorities, especially
food security, that are critical to poverty reduction.”

For decades, folks in the global South
have called for climate reparations
— a large-scale transfer
of wealth to help poorer countries adapt to climate change.

We had some tenuously promising signs during Paris Agreement
negotiations. Rich countries committed to ramping up aid to $100
billion per year in restorative climate funding by 2020. We’re
one year out, and barely 10
percent of the initial funds
have been raised. Before he left
office, Obama committed the United States, historically responsible
for about a quarter of all human-caused greenhouse gases in the
atmosphere, to $3 billion — just $9.41 per American. Now, of
course, Trump wants to leave the agreement entirely.

Wealthy countries must take responsibility for the unimaginable
suffering we are inflicting. Today, as seen with Cyclone Idai,
those most affected by climate change are those who have done the
least to create the problem.

And judging by the aftermath of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico,
the humanitarian disaster is just beginning. The international
community has a responsibility to immediately aid Mozambique and
the rest of the region with food, water, shelter, and medicine —
now.

And it can’t stop there. We owe it to the people on the
frontlines of climate change to break the cycle of extreme poverty
we’ve helped perpetuate.

Cyclone Idai should be a sobering reminder that in many parts of
the world, people don’t have the luxury of ignoring climate
change. Its destruction is already here.

This story was originally published by Grist with the headline
Cyclone Idai lays bare the fundamental injustice of climate
change
on Mar 19, 2019.

Source: FS – All – Science – News
Cyclone Idai lays bare the fundamental injustice of climate change