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)

In the island nation of Kiribati, officials say Pacific storms are increasingly unpredictable, erosion is eating away at the thin soil, and much of the land will almost certainly disappear beneath the waves as the seas rise. Tarawa, a chain of small islands 30 kilometres long linked by causeways, forms the capital of the nation of around 103,000, and it shores are already receding.  "The dear Lord has not made things easy for us," President Anote Tong said on the eve of Doha. Kiribati has bought 2,400 hectares on the Fiji Islands, a couple of hours' flight away, to move the population to when the time comes. "We have to be prepared," the president said, expressing the conviction that Kiribati will be virtually submerged by mid-century. (Business Recorder, Dec. 25)


  1. Super Typhoon Haiyan: thousands feared dead
    The Philippine coastal city of Tacloban in ruins in the wake of Super Typhoon Haiyan, with unconfirmed estimates of as many as 10,000 dead. Haiyan is the fourth typhoon to hit the Philippines this year and the third Category 5 typhoon to make landfall in the Philippines since 2010. It is described as perhaps the strongest storm ever to make landfall in recorded history. (NYT, USA Today, Nov. 9; CNN, Nov. 8)

  2. Philippine deja vu in Warsaw
    Not even a year after the identical scene in Doha, Philippine envoy to the climate summit in Warsaw, Naderev “Yeb” Sano, made an emotional appeal for action in light of the recent devastation in his country. This time he said he would fast until a “meaningful outcome is in sight.” (AP, Nov. 11)

  3. Philippine climate rep confronts denialists
    From Yeb Sano’s comments in Warsaw, as reported by RTCC, Nov. 11:

    To anyone who continues to deny the reality that is climate change, I dare you to get off your ivory tower and away from the comfort of you armchair. I dare you to go to the islands of the Pacific, the islands of the Caribbean and the islands of the Indian ocean and see the impacts of rising sea levels; to the mountainous regions of the Himalayas and the Andes to see communities confronting glacial floods, to the Arctic where communities grapple with the fast dwindling polar ice caps, to the large deltas of the Mekong, the Ganges, the Amazon, and the Nile where lives and livelihoods are drowned, to the hills of Central America that confronts [sic] similar monstrous hurricanes, to the vast savannas of Africa where climate change has likewise become a matter of life and death as food and water becomes scarce. Not to forget the massive hurricanes in the Gulf of Mexico and the eastern seaboard of North America. And if that is not enough, you may want to pay a visit to the Philippines right now.