A new report from the International Federation of Red Cross and Crescent societies (IFRC) on global catastrophes since 1960 pointed out that the world has been hit by more than 100 disasters – many of them climate-related and affecting more than 50 million people – since the World Health Organization declared a pandemic in March.
The Red Cross urged the world to react with the same urgency to climate change as the coronavirus crisis, warning that global warming poses a greater long-term threat than COVID-19.
“Of course, the COVID is there, it’s in front of us, it is affecting our families, our friends, our relatives,” IFRC Secretary General Jagan Chapagain said in a virtual press conference. “It’s a very, very serious crisis the world is facing currently,” he said of the pandemic that has already claimed more than 1.3 million lives.
But he warned that the IFRC expects that “climate change will have a more significant medium and long term impact on the human life and on Earth.” Additionally, while it is looking increasingly likely that one or several vaccines would soon become available against COVID-19, Chapagain stressed that “unfortunately there is no vaccine for climate change”.
He said global warming will require a much more sustained action and investment to really protect human life on this planet. The frequency and intensity of extreme weather and climate-related events had already increased considerably in recent decades, the IFRC said.
In 2019 alone, the world was hit by 308 natural disasters – 77 percent of them climate or weather related – killing some 24,400 people. The number of climate and weather-related disasters had been steadily climbing since the 1960s, and has surged by nearly 35 percent since the 1990s, the IFRC noted. It estimated that around $50 billion would be needed annually over the next decade to help the 50 developing countries to adapt to the changing climate.
The Philippine experience over the past few weeks where the destruction caused by super typhoon Rolly, almost immediately followed by Ulysses, stresses our vulnerability to this long-standing concern that we should never lose sight of, even as we struggle mightily with the urgent challenges caused by COVID-19.
Our public officials should be continuously addressing these concerns instead of constantly making excuses, picking petty fights, or stroking their fragile egos.*