Thursday, November 21, 2013

Paying for climate change

Anyone want to talk about a big, nasty number? Try $5.8 billion. Now that may not seem like much in the world of aircraft carrier shopping but for a poor country like the Philippines, this estimate for the damage caused by typhoon Haiyan must seem like a crazy-large fortune.  And the $5 million the UN has pledged for disaster relief seems like an insult. In a country where a typical dwelling probably costs about $1000 or so, this number demonstrates just how widespread and massive the destruction was.

Post-Haiyan rebuilding could cost billions, says Philippine minister

Typhoon relief efforts gathering pace with nearly 25,000 personnel deployed, but remote villages still desperate for aid

Tania Branigan in Beijing and agencies, Tuesday 19 November 2013

The cost of rebuilding in the swathe of the Philippines devastated by typhoon Haiyan could reach $5.8bn, a senior official has said.

Homes, businesses, public facilities and infrastructure were shattered by the fierce winds and powerful storm surge. At least 3,974 people are dead and 1,186 missing, with an estimated four million displaced.

The government has already cut its growth estimate for the year, but Arsenio Balisacan, the economic planning secretary, said the fundamentals remained intact in one of Asia's fastest growing economies.

"I would not be surprised if it can go as high as 250 billion [pesos, $5.8bn, £3.6bn]," Balisacan told Reuters, commenting on the likely cost of reconstruction.

The United Nations Development Programme has pledged $5m (£3.1m) to help clear away debris that is hampering relief efforts. But Helen Clark, the programme's administrator, said four times that would be needed to clear rubble in affected provinces in the first phase of work.

Relief efforts have stepped up dramatically in the past few days. "It looks completely different to when I came in last week," said Valerie Amos, the United Nations humanitarian chief. "I'm really delighted that so much progress has been made, so much more aid is going out, and the people are getting the vital supplies that they need."

The government said nearly 25,000 personnel, 104 ships and boats and 163 aircraft from various countries had been deployed. Almost 90 medical teams, roughly half foreign and half local, are at work.

Lieutenant General Roy Deveraturda, military commander of the Visayas – the island grouping hit by the storm – said the region would be divided into blocks to streamline relief efforts.

"We're planning to ask the British Royal Navy to concentrate on the western Visayas region to assess and deliver food, water and supplies to smaller islands … We already have the Americans in Samar and Leyte and Israeli doctors and relief teams in the northern tip of Cebu," he said.

Eduardo del Rosario, director of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council, said: "Basically, we've provided everyone with relief. What we are doing right now is sustainment."

But in remote villages in Eastern Samar province, one of the areas worst hit by the storm, handwritten banners pleaded for attention and residents said they were in desperate need of aid. "Help us. We need food," said one message painted on blue plastic sheeting.

In Hernani, where dozens of wooden houses were swept away and several villagers died, one family said there had been a single delivery of food and water, while others said there had been none.

"We don't have any choice over our future," said Nestor Candido, 39, as his family sheltered under a plastic sheet. "All we do here is plant vegetables and harvest coconuts and now this tragedy … It will take time to get another harvest."

Fourteen prisoners who escaped Tacloban jail when the typhoon flooded the prison and smashed the central gate are back behind bars, Reuters reported. Another 103 are missing.

The prisoners had been freed from their cells so they could seek higher ground. Some returned of their own volition while others were recaptured by officers. The jail's warden said many inmates had fled to help their families survive the storm. more
For much of the world, climate change is something that is being done to them by outsiders.  Those who live in low-lying islands that are being threatened by rising waters did not cause the problem.  Iowa may be suffering from droughts and the occasional nasty flash flood but at least the folks in Iowa got to drive cars and live in centrally heated homes.

The citizens of the victim countries want to be paid for their pain by those who caused it. Not surprisingly, the countries the caused most of the carbon emissions don't want to pay.  Today, this dispute triggered a walkout at the climate summit in Warsaw.

Poor countries walk out of UN climate talks as compensation row rumbles on

Bloc of 132 countries exit Warsaw conference after rich nations refuse to discuss climate change recompense until after 2015

John Vidal, Wednesday 20 November 2013

Representatives of most of the world's poor countries have walked out of increasingly fractious climate negotiations after the EU, Australia, the US and other developed countries insisted that the question of who should pay compensation for extreme climate events be discussed only after 2015.

The orchestrated move by the G77 and China bloc of 132 countries came during talks about "loss and damage" – how countries should respond to climate impacts that are difficult or impossible to adapt to, such as typhoon Haiyan.

Saleemul Huq, the scientist whose work on loss and damage helped put the issue of recompense on the conference agenda, said: "Discussions were going well in a spirit of co-operation, but at the end of the session on loss and damage Australia put everything agreed into brackets, so the whole debate went to waste."

Australia was accused of not taking the negotiations seriously. "They wore T-shirts and gorged on snacks throughout the negotiation. That gives some indication of the manner they are behaving in," said a spokeswoman for Climate Action Network.

Developing countries have demanded that a new UN institution be set up to oversee compensation but rich countries have been dismissive, blocking calls for a full debate in the climate talks.

"The EU understands that the issue is incredibly important for developing countries. But they should be careful about … creating a new institution. This is not [what] this process needs," said Connie Hedegaard, EU climate commissioner.

She ruled out their most important demand, insisting: "We cannot have a system where we have automatic compensation when severe events happen around the world. That is not feasible."

The G77 and China group, which is due to give a press conference on Wednesday to explain the walkout, has made progress on loss and damage, which it says is a "red line" issue. It claims to be unified with similar blocs including the Least Developed Countries, Alliance of Small Island States and the Africa Group of negotiators.

Hedegaard poured cold water on last week's related proposal by Brazil, that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change be asked to find a way to quantify each country's historical emissions of greenhouse gases in order to help countries establish the level of future emission cuts.

Debate on the issue has been rejected by rich countries, which fear it could lead to unacceptable costs.

Hedegaard conceded that rich countries had a special responsibility to cut emissions. "The whole financing discussion reflects that the developed world knows it has special responsibility. Most of what has been emitted has been done by us," she said.

Harjeet Singh, ActionAid Internatonal's spokesman on disaster risk, said: "The US, EU, Australia and Norway remain blind to the climate reality that's hitting us all, and poor people and countries much harder. They continue to derail negotiations in Warsaw that can create a new system to deal with new types of loss and damage such as sea-level rise, loss of territory, biodiversity and other non-economic losses more systematically." more 


  1. Not to diminish the horrific nature of this tragedy in the Philippines, but I've been rather shocked at the short shrift the recent Illinois tornadoes got. In recent years that part of Illinois has had 176 tornado sightings. 100 of them came in one day. Yes, only six died, but the warnings were ample and heeded. But if you look at the photos, the damage was astonishing.

    I find it impossible to believe this isn't more newsworthy, especially given our media's penchant for wallowing in the misery of others. News related to climate change is systemically suppressed, 'oh, it's just the weather — don't like it? Wait a day and it will change.'

    1. Yes Mark, I plead guilty. As someone from the midwest who has probably heard 200+ tornado warnings in my life, I basically ignored this outbreak because, even though force four tornadoes in November are newsworthy, this one wasn't especially dangerous. It hit a part of the country where everyone has basements so the casualties were minimal. And like all tornadoes, if it doesn't actually hit you directly, these things are pretty harmless.

      But I do promise that I WILL cover natural disasters here in the midwest when they break records. Promise! And we can fully expect to see record-breaking weather in the very near future. That is baked into climate change.