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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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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
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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.

 

Storms
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)

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Obamacare Unconstitutional: U.S. Federal Judge

White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said the judge’s decision “vindicates President Trump’s position that Obamacare is unconstitutional

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Obamacare, U.S.
Protesters gather across the Chicago River from Trump Tower to rally against the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, March 24, 2017, in Chicago. VOA

A U.S. federal judge has ruled that the Affordable Care Act, widely known as Obamacare, is unconstitutional.

U.S. District Court Judge Reed O’Connor in Texas ruled Friday that a change in the U.S. tax law last year eliminating a penalty for not having health insurance invalidates the entire ACA.

Last year’s $1.5 trillion tax bill included a provision eliminating the individual mandate.

The decision is expected to be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The ACA will remain the law during the appeal process.

Health Insurance, U.S.
The HealthCare.gov website on a computer screen in New York, Oct. 23, 2018. A U.S. federal judge Friday ruled the Affordable Care Act unconstitutional. VOA

About 11.8 million consumers nationwide enrolled in 2018 Obamacare exchange plans, according to the U.S. government’s Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

U.S. President Donald Trump promised during his presidential campaign to dismantle the ACA, a program that made affordable health insurance available to millions of Americans.

The president took to Twitter Friday night:

“The ruling seems to be based on faulty legal reasoning and hopefully it will be overturned,” U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer said in a statement. “Americans who care about working families must do all they can to prevent this district court ruling from becoming law.

“If this awful ruling is upheld in the higher courts,” he added, “it will be a disaster for tens of millions of American families, especially for people with pre-existing conditions.”

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U.S. President Donald Trump talks to reporters about the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Turkey during a bill-signing ceremony at the White House in Washington. VOA

Americans with pre-existing conditions, before ACA, faced either high premiums or an inability to access health insurance at all.

White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said the judge’s decision “vindicates President Trump’s position that Obamacare is unconstitutional. Once again, the president calls on Congress to replace Obamacare and act to protect people with pre-existing conditions and provide Americans with quality affordable health care.”

Also Read: Microsoft Adds ‘Digital Health’ Feature On its Beta Android Launcher

“Today’s misguided ruling will not deter us,” California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, the leader of an alliance of states opposing the lawsuit, said in a statement. “Our coalition will continue to fight in court for the health and well-being for all Americans.” (VOA)