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Devastation Caused By Powerful Storms Threatens Both The Rich And Poor

At the Dec. 2-14 talks in Poland, arguments are expected over how progress on dealing with "loss and damage" should be assessed in 2023

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Storms
Alma Morales Rosario is pictured between the beams of her home being rebuilt after it was destroyed by Hurricane Maria one year ago in the San Lorenzo neighborhood of Morovis, Puerto Rico. VOA

The devastation caused by powerful storms is a growing threat to both poor and rich nations, propelling Caribbean islands to the top of a global index of countries most severely affected by weather disasters last year, researchers said Tuesday.

The U.S. territory of Puerto Rico was ranked as the hardest-hit, and the island of Dominica came in third place after both were battered by Hurricane Maria last September, according to an annual climate risk index from Germanwatch, an environmental policy group.

The United States ranked 12th in the 2017 index, with 389 fatalities and nearly $175 billion in losses from extreme weather.

“Recent storms with intensity levels never seen before have had disastrous impacts,” said the index’s lead author, David Eckstein.

 

Hurricane, climate change, disasters, U.S., economic, storms
Floodwaters from Tropical Storm Harvey overflow from Buffalo Bayou in downtown Houston, Texas, VOA

Such weather disasters are likely to worsen further in coming years, the U.N. humanitarian agency warned Tuesday, creating significant new humanitarian needs.

Floods, storms and droughts all are expected to strengthen, the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said in its Global Humanitarian Overview 2019 report.

It cited World Bank data predicting 140 million people could be internally displaced by 2050 as a result of global warming.

Among the countries being significantly hit by climate-linked extreme weather is the United States, whose President Donald Trump is one of the most prominent skeptics of man-made climate change, the agency said.

 

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In this Sept. 23, 2017, photo, homes lay scattered after the passing of Hurricane Maria in Roseau, the capital of the island of Dominica. VOA

Hurricanes and storms in the United States and Caribbean caused more than $220 billion worth of damage last year, representing nearly two-thirds of global losses caused by natural disasters in 2017, OCHA said.

“Climate events are contributing to greater humanitarian problems than we have seen in the past,” said Jens Laerke, a spokesman for OCHA. “This is something the world has not yet adapted fully to.”

As hurricanes and tropical cyclones intensify in strength, they are particularly hurting poor nations that are unprepared for the threat, researchers said on the sidelines of U.N. climate talks in Poland.

In the tiny island country of Dominica, Maria caused losses equal to more than twice its gross domestic product, damaging or destroying about 90 percent of housing.

Lloyd Pascal, a Dominican climate negotiator whose home has yet to be fully repaired after being hit by the storm, urged the U.N. talks to pay more attention to “weaker countries.”

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Scenes of devastation in Mexico Beach, Florida in the aftermath for Hurricane Michael.. VOA

Dominica, with 72,000 people, lacks the ability to prepare for the increasingly severe weather it is suffering, he said.

Even though storm warnings are received, the state does not have resources to evacuate people into shelters, he said, nor understand clearly how heavy rainfall will boost river levels.

“We are just not prepared to do that kind of work,” he told reporters. “We are like sitting ducks.”

But rich countries, including the United States, also are seeing clearer climate impacts, and need to step up efforts to keep their people safe, Germanwatch said.

“Effective climate protection, as well as increasing resilience, is … in the self-interest of these countries,” Eckstein said.

The Germanwatch index highlighted other types of weather-related damage as well, from unusually heavy rainfall to landslides.

Climate Change, hurricane michael, Storms
In this photograph released by the Sri Lankan Air Force media division on May 29, 2017, flooding is seen in the country’s Matara district. VOA

Sri Lanka, the second most-affected country in 2017, saw dramatic floods that year that killed 200 people and left hundreds of thousands homeless.

The U.N. climate negotiations should drum up more support for the poorest countries like Nepal, Vietnam, Sierra Leone and Madagascar to deal with rising losses linked to climate change, Germanwatch said.

All four of those countries figured in the index’s top 10 of nations most affected by weather disasters in 2017.

“They need predictable and reliable financial support for dealing with climate-induced loss and damage,” Eckstein said.

Five years ago, the U.N. climate talks set up a mechanism to better understand the damage that now will be unavoidable as a result of the 1 degree Celsius hike in global temperatures that has already occurred.

Hurricanes, Storms
Interstate Highway 45 is submerged from the effects of Hurricane Harvey in Houston, Texas. VOA

The mechanism also seeks to find ways to deal with the consequences as the world warms further.

But industrialized countries — which have historically emitted the most climate-changing emissions — have refused to pay compensation to those who are less to blame for global warming yet find themselves on the front line of impacts.

Also Read: Rise in Temperature of Atlantic Ocean Causes Severe Hurricanes: Study

Instead, they are providing access to insurance.

At the Dec. 2-14 talks in Poland, arguments are expected over how progress on dealing with “loss and damage” should be assessed in 2023, when countries measure their climate action against the goals of the Paris climate accord. (VOA)

Next Story

Donald Trump to Declare ‘Emergency’, Use Military Funds for Mexico Border Wall

He will sign a border security bill to avert a government shutdown, but also act to bypass Congress and use military funds for the wall, a statement said.

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Donald Trump
R.E.M. bassist Mike Mills blasted Carpe Donktum and Trump on Saturday. Pixabay

US President Donald Trump will declare a national emergency to fund his planned border wall with Mexico, the White House has said.

He will sign a border security bill to avert a government shutdown, but also act to bypass Congress and use military funds for the wall, a statement said.

Senior Democrats have responded by accusing him of committing a “gross abuse of power” and a “lawless act”, the BBC reported on Friday.

The Congress passed the bill on Thursday which does not meet Trump’s demands for wall funding. It now has to be signed by the President to become law.

 

Donald Trump, Mexico
Senior Democrats have responded by accusing him of committing a “gross abuse of power” and a “lawless act”. VOA

The compromise legislation passed by Congress includes $1.3 billion in funding for border security, including physical barriers, but it does not allot money towards the border wall for which Trump had wanted $5.7 billion.

“The President is once again delivering on his promise to build the wall, protect the border, and secure our great country,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said in a statement on Thursday.

She added he would “take other executive action – including a national emergency – to ensure we stop the national security and humanitarian crisis at the border”.

Speaking on the Senate floor on Thursday, however, Republican leader Mitch McConnell indicated his support for the move, saying the President was taking action with “whatever tools he can legally use to enhance his efforts to secure the border”.

In a 83-16 vote, the Senate on Thursday passed the border security bill. The House of Representatives later also backed the measure, by 300 to 128.

 

US, Donald Trump
“The President is once again delivering on his promise to build the wall, protect the border, and secure our great country,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said. VOA

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi has already suggested a legal challenge from Democrats should the President make an emergency declaration.

She and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer also issued a joint statement condemning the move.

 

ALSO READ: Mexico Announced to Relocate Central American Migrants, 4 People Injured

“Declaring a national emergency would be a lawless act, a gross abuse of the power of the presidency and a desperate attempt to distract from the fact that President Trump broke his core promise to have Mexico pay for his wall,” they said.

Republicans fear this will set a precedent for presidential power that Democrats can someday use to circumvent the will of Congress. (IANS)