By Betwa Sharma
Posting in Cities
DELHI -- Activists discuss the lessons of Hurricane Sandy for the rest of the globe.
DELHI – Two Indian cities – Kolkata and Mumbai – are among the top ten facing the highest risk from climate change, according to a study released last week by Maplecroft, a British consultancy firm specializing in risk assessment.
The most vulnerable is Bangladesh’s capital Dhaka followed by Manila in the Philippines and Bangkok in Thailand. Kolkata is ranked seventh and Mumbai is eighth. India’s capital city Delhi ranks 20 among the 50 on the vulnerability index.
New York City, which bore the brunt of Hurricane Sandy, is listed at 41.
The report warns that countries experiencing economic growth of above 5% should not ignore how climate change can impact people and businesses.
“As global corporations expand into the emerging growth markets, their operations and supply chains will become exposed to a complex set of climate risks that have the potential to disrupt business continuity,” said Helen Hodge, Maplecroft’s Head of Maps and Indices.
New York City, however, is categorized only as “medium risk” because of its quick response to Hurricane Sandy.
“The country’s strong economy and infrastructure, coupled with the extensive preparations before the storm’s landfall, enabled a relatively rapid return to operations for many businesses and services, with some of New York’s major airports and the New York Stock Exchange reopening only two days after the storm,” the study said.
While Hurricane Sandy hit New York, an almost equally ferocious Cyclone Nilam hit the southeastern coast of India in October. Sandy has caused damages and economic losses of $50 billion to U.S. northeast region.
The government of India is still assessing the damage from Nilam which spread over five states. The worst-hit Srikakulam district in the state of Andhra Pradesh would require about $36.4 million just to repair roads and embankments.
Scientists do not link climate change to a single storm, flood or drought. But they say that human-induced global warming is leading to an increase in the intensity of extreme weather events and a rise in sea levels.
A week ahead of the U.N. climate change conference in Doha, Qatar climate activists in India are wondering whether Hurricane Sandy will propel the United States to adopt a more pro-active role in addressing the global challenge at a domestic and international level.
“We do see some momentum,” said Harjeet Singh, the climate change coordinator at ActionAid International. “Sandy shattered the myth that only developing countries are going to be hit by climate change.”
Singh added that the storm’s aftermath is an indication of the world bypassing the mitigation and adaptation phase. “Loss and damages is going to be a new reality,” he said. “It wasn’t expected for decades but now we’re facing it.”
Following the huge storm, NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg endorsed Obama on the expectation that he would take action to address climate change. Bloomberg’s Businessweek’s cover story screamed “It’s Global Warming Stupid.”
Growing public awareness on climate change in the U.S. was reflected in polls conducted this year. For instance, a survey done by Yale and George Mason Universities showed that most Americans believed that global warming is impacting the weather.
R.K. Pachauri, Director General of The Energy and Research Institute in Delhi, who also serves as the chairman of the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, noted that public awareness about climate change wasn’t necessarily translating into action. “Governments are being dominated by short-term objectives for their nations,” he said. “But they cannot afford to ignore the rationale of climate change anymore.”
In another poll conducted by HuffPost/YouGov after Hurricane Sandy, one in five Americans would be willing to pay significantly more for gas or electricity, even if they were assured that it meant solving the climate change crisis.
Speaking to the press after winning the elections, Obama said any future action on climate change could not come at the costs of American jobs and growth.
“I don't think anybody is going to go for that. I won't go for that,” he said. “If, on the other hand, we can shape an agenda that says we can create jobs, advance growth, and make a serious dent in climate change and be an international leader, I think that's something that the American people would support.”
Climate activists in India see his remarks as vague and non-committal.
“I don’t think it will change the American position. If Katrina didn’t do it then neither will Sandy,” said Chandra Bhushan, deputy chief of the Centre of Science and Environment in Delhi. “I think there is a clear message from the Obama administration that there will be little change if it affects jobs.”
Bhushan says that in Doha, the US instead of addressing the issue of reducing its CO2 emission will try to divert to negotiations into reaching an agreement on short-lived climate forces like methane, black carbon or soot and a range of fluorinated gases.
These agents are many times more powerful than CO2 in trapping heat, but have a very short life-cycle of anything between a few days to 15 years. CO2 can stay in the atmosphere for over 100 years. Bhushan says that although CO2 is a bigger problem, the US may push others to pick this low hanging fruit.
In February 2012, US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton announced the Climate and Clean Air Coalition which now has 13 members, including World Bank and European Union to reduce these short-lived agents.
During Obama’s first term, a proposed “cap and trade” regime that gives incentives to cut carbon emissions was passed by the House of Representatives but never approved by the Senate. Analysts see little chance of legislation to tax carbon emissions being passed. “In the U.S. there is a division between the executive power and Congress and that is a continuing reality that won’t change,” said Pachauri.
Obama, however, has pointed out that during his first term the U.S. had doubled fuel efficiency standards on cars and trucks, and doubled the production of clean energy. “But we haven't done as much as we need to,” he said.
In the election issue of Time Magazine, Michael Grunwald writes that Obama’s fuel efficiency rules could reduce carbon emissions by 6 billion metric tons by 2025, and his stimulus bill had put $90 billion into clean energy.
But Indian activists feel that the U.S. needs to rethink its whole developmental model that promotes unsustainable consumption.
“The time has come for the US to take climate change seriously,” said Ashok Khosla, head of the International Union for Conservation of Nature. “Now that the elections are behind, the president can make some tough decisions for his country and the world.”
Indians have cause to be concerned. In another study conducted by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, Mumbai and Kolkata have been identified as the two port cities most vulnerable to face sea level rise and cyclones. The first eight out of 20 spots are held by cities in Asia. Miami comes in at ninth while New York is seventeenth.
The Times of India reported that this study estimates that by 2070 an estimated 11.4 million people and assets worth $1.3 trillion would be at peril in Mumbai due to climatic extremes. In Kolkata, 14 million citizens and assets worth $2 trillion will be at peril by 2070.
Unlike the U.S., developing countries don’t have the capacity or resources to manage extreme weather events. “Everybody is going to take the impact of climate change,” said Krishna Achutarao, a professor at the Centre for Atmospheric Sciences at the Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi. “The divide is not on the impact but the ability to cope.”
Photo: Dhaka, Bangladesh. (eGuideTravel/Flickr)
Nov 18, 2012
Global climate change requires an international response under the UN system, in which USA should be a part. Individual countries are active through their national initiatives, but the cooperation and coordination required in scientific information sharing, technology transfers can come about only through the multilateral process. Doha conference next week should generate optimism and come out with sharper plans of action compared to the Rio+20 conference. Doha must aim towards tangibles and greater involvement of the private sector management skills through intergovernmental cooperation.
Advance warning systems will promote international cooperation in climate change, much more than mitigation and adaptation, it will be less divisive and political. With Kyoto on its way out in Doha, one should return to the basics. Fortunately, most developing countries are acting individually on climate change without waiting for Nortn - South cooperation.
I see the disinformation crowd is all out in full force again. US Republicans just can't learn that they will face extinction before many other species. It is a competitive world where the stupid goes extinct. Reversing climate change merely involve using less energy, adopt renewable energy, & consuming less material rubbish. They are all very easy to do except for people in addictive denial.
This guy: (http://www.globalmarket.name) is spamming this page. He should be evicted and not allowed to register and if registered should be disbarred. This is a serious site and not a market-place for fancy/not so fancy goods
At one time the UN machine was honestly looking at the flooding problems in Asia without blaming global warming. The real problem is poverty and over development of flood plains. Notice the dates of the reports mentioned predate the global warming hysteria. Another UN report in 2007 came to same answer. Overdevelopment. http://www.jstor.org/discover/10.2307/3059653?uid=3739800&uid=2&uid=4&uid=3739256&sid=21101456760307 Even in 2012 there is no mention of global warming at the more honest UN agencies. "95% of urban population growth takes place in informal settlements with poor housing infrastructure, and on lands of last resort that range from railway tracks, coastlines, and flood plains to river banks and volcanic slopes - locations all highly exposed to hazards." http://www.unescap.org/speeches/reducing-vulnerability-and-exposure-disasters-asia-and-pacific
Climate change crisis would have been a virtual âcomet hitâ of an emergency if it had been true, (Since nothing besides nuclear war could be worse-deny that please?) and it has turned out obviously to not be the crisis science claimed it âmightâ have been. -IF it were a crisis the world would be in a global emergency status and the millions of people in the global scientific community would be leading the mission to deal with a climate crisis and probable death of their own children, not just ours. -If it were a crisis the news of this coming crisis would be the leading tag on social media and at the top of the news casts and not at the bottom. -The UN would have issued TV commercials and issued posters and bumper stickers because a little climate crisis is impossible. The exaggeration of climate change was astounding and history is already calling this CO2 madness; climate control omen worship; âI see the signs of change. The change is all around us
Rather than confront the arrogance of man and admit there is overwhelming poverty leading to uncontrolled development in these parts of the world, people such as yourself, Edwina, find it more convenient to blame an abstract called global warming or climate change. You are avoiding the truth. Multiple UN reports, written by people who have not bought into the global warming scam, have repeatedly pointed to the same problems as being behind the ever increasing danger of living in many large Asian cities. "The increasing occurrence of disasters throughout the world is a commonly identified indicator of non-sustainable development." (United Nations, 1994; Burton et al, 1993) Follow on UN reports in 2000, 2003, 2007, 2009 and 2012 all have the same findings with ever increasingly dire warnings of larger and more frequent disasters brought on by unsustainable development. Not one mention of global warming or climate change in any of the reports. NY city and state officials were warned for decades of the type of flooding seen from hurricane Sandy. All of the scientists used historic flood records to warn against the significant development being done in historically flood prone areas. The most recent warning was in June 2012. The scientist speaking in June called 2011s hurricane Irene a warning before he went on to nail every flood zone down to the number of city blocks that would be flooded just 4 months later. He was scary accurate, yet they laughed at him and publicly mocked him when he predicted the NY subway system would become the worlds longest urban aquarium. Sadly he was RIGHT and people died because precautions were not taken and evacuations were not extensive enough. All his work was based on history, not hysteria. http://www.propertycasualty360.com/2012/10/29/nyc-the-most-dangerous-place-in-the-world-for-stor Plum Island MA, Chatham MA, Norfolk VA, New Orleans LA, Saint Louis MO, San Diego CA, San Francisco CA, Portland OR and a thousand other places have chosen to blame local development issues leading to regional flooding on the evil of our day, global warming, instead of confronting the human arrogance of building where we should not.