Climate change needs to be addressed or else be ready to pay the price

Climate change needs to be addressed or else be ready to pay the price

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published Published on Jan 15, 2021   modified Modified on Jan 15, 2021

A recent report by Christian Aid -- an international NGO based out of London -- says that the world was not just hit by the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, it actually faced massive loss of lives and livelihoods owing to the intensification of the ongoing climate crisis. Climate-related disasters varied from fires in Australia and the United States, floods in China, India and Japan to storms in Europe and the Americas, which affected millions of people.  

Floods and landslides brought about by extreme monsoon rainfalls during June-October caused at least 2,067 deaths and damages to the tune of US$ 10 billion in India. Floods displaced 4.0 million Indians last year. In 2019 too, the country had witnessed excessive rainfalls in many states. Due to excessive rainfalls in 2020, nearly 49 people were killed in a single landslide at a tea plantation in Kerala. In Assam, floods affected over 60,000 people between May and October, and led to 149 deaths. A record level of rainfall of 29.8cm in 24 hours (nearly 6cm more than the previous record rainfall) was noticed in Hyderabad, where around 10 million city dwellers live. Cars and houses were submerged in the floods, killing at least 50 people.

The number of extreme rainfall events has increased by three times over the last 65 years. Forecasting models predict that the frequency of floods in India would double in a high carbon emissions scenario vis-à-vis a low carbon emissions scenario. Clearly, climate change is likely to be one of the main causes behind extreme weather events.

Aside from excessive monsoon showers, the country also experienced the wrath of Cyclone Amphan in West Bengal, Odisha and Andaman Islands in the month of May. At least 128 people were killed by the super cyclone, which caused huge damage in cities in India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Bhutan. Cyclone Amphan, which was one of the strongest storms on record in the Bay of Bengal, caused losses amounting to over US$ 13 billion. The super cyclone displaced 4.9 million people. Due to global warming, cyclones affecting the countries bordering the North Indian Ocean have become more powerful than ever before. It must be noted that India has set targets to reduce carbon emissions that are “compatible” with keeping the planet’s temperature increase below 2°C compared to the pre-industrial times.   

The report entitled Counting the cost 2020: A year of climate breakdown has put together the economic cost of natural disasters that affected various countries and regions in 2020, which is as follows:

1. Australia bushfires (Australia, $5 billion)
2. Locust swarms (East Africa, $8.5 billion)
3. Windstorms Ciara and Alex (Europe, $5.9 billion)
4. Cyclone Amphan (India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, $13 billion)
5. Atlantic Hurricane season (US, Central America, $40 billion)
6. China floods (China, $32 billion)
7. India floods (India, $10 billion)
8. Kyushu floods (Japan, $5 billion)
9. Pakistan floods (Pakistan, $1.5 billion)
10. US West Coast fires (US, $20 billion)

Other major disasters that struck in 2020 are:

11. Siberian heatwave (Russia)
12. South Sudan floods (South Sudan)
13. South American fires (Brazil, Uruguay, Argentina, Paraguay)
14. Typhoons Goni and Vamco (Philippines)
15. Vietnam floods (Vietnam)

Since most of the estimates cited in the Christian Aid report are based on insured losses, so the true figure is likely to be much higher.

The report cautions that if there is a global temperature rise of 3°C by 2050 (as predicted by the UN ‘Emissions Gap’ report published in November 2020), then that would bring mass extinctions and leave swathes of the planet uninhabitable.

The report titled Counting the cost 2020: A year of climate breakdown has made the following suggestions:

To prevent further disasters, countries must urgently cut greenhouse gas emissions. While some countries have put forward ambitious plans, others need to come forward. Urgent implementation must be a top political priority.

Richer countries need to provide more funding to support vulnerable communities living in poorer countries to help them adapt and build resilience to the impacts of climate change. These countries have done the least to cause the climate crisis but suffer its effects disproportionately.

All Governments must invest in the energy transition to renewables. Richer countries should support developing countries so they can leapfrog the fossil fuelled development path taken by richer countries.


Counting the cost 2020: A year of climate breakdown, Christian Aid, released in December, 2020, please click here to access

Emissions Gap Report 2020, United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), released in November 2020, please click here to access

News alert: Extreme weather events destroying our economy in a big way, indicates official data, Inclusive Media for Change, Published on Oct 14, 2019, please click here to access

India bore maximum brunt of extreme weather events in 2020: Report -Jayanta Basu, Down to Earth, 28 December, 2020, please click here to access


Image Courtesy: Counting the cost 2020: A year of climate breakdown, Christian Aid, released in December, 2020, please click here to access

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