Fiji

Fiji: not a 'natural' disaster

Authorities in Fiji are assessing the extent of the damage after Cyclone Winston brought winds of over 200 miles per hour, torrential rains and waves of up to 40 feet (12 meters). The storm—said to be the strongest tropical cyclone ever measured in the Southern Hemisphere—destroyed hundreds of homes and cut electricity lines. There are reports of entire villages flattened. At least five people are dead by initial counts. The government has imposed a nationwide curfew and 30-day "state of national disaster," giving expanded powers to police to arrest people without a warrant. The storm moved westward after making landfall Feb. 20 in the north of Fiji's main island, Viti Levu. It changed direction at the last minute, sparing the capital Suva the full force of its winds. (BBC News, Slate, Feb. 20) 

Activists divided on Paris climate accord

In what UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon hailed as a "truly a historic moment," world leaders gathering in Paris for the COP 21 climate summit on Dec. 12 approved an accord aiming to limit global warming to 1.5 C—an improvement over the current national committments (known as Intended Nationally Determined Contributions or INDCs in technocratic jargon) which only mandate a limit of 3 C. Some international campaigners are claiming victory. "The wheel of climate action turns slowly, but in Paris it has turned," said Greenpeace International executive director Kumi Naidoo. "This deal puts the fossil-fuel industry on the wrong side of history... That single number, and the new goal of net zero emissions by the second half of this century, will cause consternation in the boardrooms of coal companies and the palaces of oil-exporting states." (AFP, NYT

Pacific mega-storms portend climate disaster

Negotiators at the UN Doha Climate Change Conference managed to win an 11th-hour pact that kept the Kyoto Protocol alive but put off anything more. Naderev Saño, the Philippines’ chief negotiator, broke down in tears, beseeching action as his homeland was being devastated by a Typhoon Bopha: "I appeal to leaders from all over the world to open our eyes to the stark reality that we face." Typhoon Bopha, classified as a Category 5 supertyphoon, is believed to have left nearly 1,000 dead as it tore through the southern island of Mindanao—making it more than five times as catastrophic than Hurricane Sandy. Floods and landslides caused major damage in nearly 2,000 villages on Dec. 4, and more than 300 fishermen are still believed to be lost at sea. (FT, Dec. 12; PTI, Dec. 9) On Dec. 16, Cyclone Evan caused widespread damage in Samoa, with 4,500 left homeless, plantations destroyed and at least four dead. (Australia Network News, Dec. 16) Evacuations are now underway in Fiji, the next island nation in the storm's path. (AP, Dec. 15)

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