14 million people are currently on the ropes in Pakistan following a series of destructive floods that killed at least 1700 people. In China, 1100 people are missing and 337 killed by a massive landslide triggered by floods.
Is this normal? Is it only collateral damage of human progress? Should we just accept the roll of dice? Is there nothing we can do? I certainly don’t think so.
Human lives were lost and many more badly affected by poor policy choices. A lot of this has to do with the effects of climate change. I won’t even start talking here about the difficulties of getting developing countries and developed ones agree on climate change mitigation; I’ve done it elsewhere. My point is that a lot could and should have been done to prevent such disasters from ruining so many livelihoods in the first place.
There is such a thing called climate change adaptation. The UNDP developed a dedicated knowledge resource on it; there are many other useful resources for developing climate change adaptation strategies. But any strategy is useless unless it’s implemented on the ground. This obviously hasn’t happened in many places.
Local politicians, beware: unless you start taking climate change adaptation seriously, you will lose your job – one way or the other. No political guru will be able to contain public resentment in the long run if the government is unable to protect its own people from such disasters. This goes for China, too.
All developing countries must start implementing their own climate change adaptation strategies RIGHT NOW. Political complacency will not be tolerated for a long time. Its price tag is just too large. Developed countries should support those strategies by all means possible; otherwise there will be much more conflict and instability around the world. The stakes are high and time is running out.
(Note to the unlikely US conservative reader – in case you don’t “believe” in climate change, consider this – even if things are pretty normal, disaster management strategies are a legitimate cost-saving measure.)