File photo : Abandoned vehicles sit at a car lot in Paradise, north of Sacramento, California on November 09, 2018/AFP
File photo : Abandoned vehicles sit at a car lot in Paradise, north of Sacramento, California on November 09, 2018/AFP

Extreme weather a wake-up call: experts

national December 31, 2018 01:00

By PRATCH RUJIVANAROM
THE NATION

11,693 Viewed

NEED TO BE MORE PREPARED AND ADAPT AFTER BILLION-DOLLAR DISASTERS OF 2018



THE WORLD needs to be prepared for more extreme weather events in future after disasters caused by climate change inflicted losses running into many billions of dollars in 2018, according to a study.

The British organisation, Christian Aid, last Thursday released its new report titled “Counting the Cost: a year of climate breakdown”, which revealed that in 2018 all the six populated continents were hit by 10 catastrophic climate-related disasters that cost over US$1 billion (Bt32 billion) in economic damage.

The report and many other scientific research on climate change have similarly identified climate change as the major factor behind these billion-dollar disasters. 

The onus has now been placed on governments, businesses, and the people to build climate resilience and adaptation abilities in order to prepare for even-more |devastating natural disasters |as a result of intensifying climate change.

Throughout 2018, the world witnessed extraordinarily severe weather events such as droughts, floods, fires, heat waves, typhoons and hurricanes, which not only killed, injured, and displaced large groups of the population but also caused major economic damage costing billions of dollars.

According to the Christian Aid report, there were at least 10 extreme-weather events that caused damage exceeding $1 billion, while four of those events inflicted losses exceeding $7 billion each.

The maximum losses, according to the report, were inflicted by Hurricanes Florence and Michael, which hit the US and parts of Central America and the Caribbean. 

Florence caused damage estimated at $17 billion and Michael caused $15 billion losses, according to the report.

The impacts of other disasters on the rest of the planet were also significant; Japan suffered heavily from extreme weather events such as heat wave, typhoon, and floods, which inflicted losses of more than $12.5 billion, making the disasters in Japan the world’s third most expensive.

Meanwhile, Thailand and Southeast Asia also felt the devastating impacts of climate-related disasters, including drastic changes in rainfall volume and pattern during the monsoon.

According to water data from the National Hydroinformatics and Climate (ThaiWater), it was found that the Mekong subregion received extraordinarily higher precipitation from the unusually strong monsoon. 

The sharp rise in rainfall this season triggered widespread floods throughout the Mekong River Basin and led to the collapse of the Xe-Pian Xe-Namnoi Dam in southern Laos, which killed over 70 people and displaced thousands.

However, in contrast to wetter conditions and floods in most parts of Thailand, the nation’s precipitation chart by ThaiWater indicated that some parts of Thailand’s Northeastern and Central regions were facing drought, as the volume of rainfall in these areas was substantially lower than average.

Christian Aid’s report pointed out that these billion-dollar disasters and bizarre weather patterns are linked to human-caused climate change. 

The report explains that |climate change is strengthening the power and severity of |some weather events such as typhoons 

The rise in global temperature is also contributing to reduced rainfall, which cause wildfires and drought more often.

From the horrific trend of global climate-related disasters this year, Prof Michael Mann, distinguished professor of atmospheric science at Penn State University, stressed that humanity urgently needed to tackle climate change to prevent more destructive disasters in the future.

Rapid fall in emissions needed

“The world’s weather is becoming more extreme before our eyes – the only thing that can stop this |destructive trend from escalating is a rapid fall in carbon emissions,” Mann said.

Meanwhile, Greenpeace country director for Thailand Tara Baukamsri urged all stakeholders to help strengthen society’s resilience to climate change and empower its adaptation abilities to cope |with more intense |disasters and environmental |degradation as a result of climate change.

“Even though people in rural areas face greater impacts from climate change compared to people in the cities, the urban folks’ lack of connection with nature and understanding is making it harder for them to adapt to environmental change than their rural counterparts,” Tara said.

“So we need to fill these gaps so as to lessen the impacts from climate change on people and our society.”