Climate change: who pays?

This week’s  blog is written by Bruce Guenther, Disaster Response Director for MCC.

This week, governments, international institutions, and local civil society actors are participating in the 19th Session of the Conference of the Parties (COP) to the United Nations Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Warsaw Poland.

The meetings come on the cusp of Super Typhoon Haiyan which struck the Philippines last week — the worst recorded storm in the country’s history. Is climate change the cause of the extreme weather events we have seen in recent years? MCC’s partners continue to tell us that the changing climate is having a concrete impact on their communities. Those who have contributed the least to causing climate change bear the brunt of the harm.

In general, the research tells us that climate change will cause increased drought, flooding and extreme weather events. The recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) on the science of climate change indicates that it is “very likely” there will be more frequent and extreme precipitation events, particularly in tropical areas. It is also “very likely” that there will be more frequent heat waves and an increase in mean temperature. A further detailed report on climate change impacts and adaptation is due from the IPCC in March 2014.

HaiyanTo summarize: wet is wetter, dry is drier, and there will continue to be greater weather uncertainty and extreme events. We can already see many of those impacts. Protracted drought in the Horn of Africa (reaching a crisis in 2011), the Sahel region and in parts of southern Africa are consistent with climate change projections. Increased flooding events are also being observed in part of South Asia, most recently again in Pakistan. The recent Super Typhoon in the Philippines and Super Storm Sandy, which struck the Caribbean and the U.S. east coast, make one wonder if “super storms” are the new normal.

In Canada, we can also testify to an increase in extreme climatic events. In Manitoba, spring flooding risk has increased in frequency over the last decade, and the recent devastating flooding in southern Alberta is unprecedented.  The number of flooding events globally has been increasing over the last 20 years along with the cost of the damage.

But those who bear the greatest costs of increased climate risks are those that have contributed the least to climate change through carbon emissions. It is a global injustice.

MCC, as part of the Canadian Coalition for Climate Change and Development (C4D) is asking the Canadian government to commit additional funds to developing countries to help communities adapt to the impacts of climate change.

A recent C4D report shows that the government’s commitment to “Fast Start Climate Finance” (the 2009 Copenhagen Accord) was primarily given to developing countries as loans and toward mitigating climate change, not helping countries adapt. While mitigation is an important objective, developing countries need immediate support now to adapt to minimize the impact they are already seeing from more extreme weather events. This includes greater disaster preparedness, increased support to small-scale farmers, and ensuring public infrastructure and shelter will protect communities from the next “super storm.”

Husbandandwife_EthiopiaMCC is helping communities adapt to a changing climate. A recent case study, from the Amhara region of Ethiopia, shows that climate change is increasing the frequency, intensity and unpredictability of climate-related hazards. MCC with the, Migibare Senay Children and Family Support Organization, has worked to increase soil and water conservation, restore biodiversity and increase food security in this watershed. As a result, local farmers are less vulnerable to climate-related shocks and stresses and have improved their food security.

MCC, in cooperation with Canadian Foodgrains Bank, is urging churches and individuals to write to their Member of Parliament asking the Canadian government to do more, including: 1) allocating new and additional funding to help developing countries address climate change, and 2) ensuring that more of these funds are spent on adaptation activities in order meet the immediate needs of vulnerable countries and communities.

The most vulnerable are paying the price for a changing climate. We need to pay our fair share.

2 thoughts on “Climate change: who pays?

  1. The conclusion I draw from this blog is support for the view that despite many claimants for the top spot, climate change is the number one Human Rights issue in the world today.

    1. From my attempts to keep up with these topics, it seems clear to me that while many of the big weather events you list gather force from climate change, for example Typhoon Haiyan was worsened by the warmer ocean waters over which it travelled, human activity not directly related directly to climate change increases its impact. The impact of the floods (and costs) in Alberta, for example, were magnified by years of land use patterns (e.g. changes in drainage), deforestation, and settlement patterns. As in unrelated areas like public health, an ounce of proactive disaster preparedness and prevention may be worth a pound of disaster response. Unfortunately, when we chop down a tree or make a small change in the flow of a stream over some pasture, little thought is given to the 25-year cumulative impact of many people doing the same small things across a vast watershed.

    2. Today it was reported by a public opinion research team at Stanford University, which has been tracking American attitudes toward climate change for many years, that for the first time over 50% of Americans believe it is a real phenomenon (a percentage not influenced by short-term attitude shifts because of salient extreme weather events). There is a growing constituency receptive to education and constructive advocacy on the issue, presumably among Mennonites as well.

    Is it time for MCC as part of its development, relief and disaster response mandates, but particularly as part of its commitment to social justice, to add a dedicated significant research and public education capacity on climate change mitigation and adaptation for both internal use in project planning, and for public education and advocacy assistance in its constituency.

    I am not referring to a kind of adjunct arm of our peace-related efforts or added capacity to our Ottawa or Washington offices. But to a completely new re-conception of who we are as Mennonites and our task as Gods servants as stewards of creation, exercised through our mutual aid organization, MCC. So that we eventually identify not only as the peace church, but also as the environment stewardship church. From the individual and household levels to folding our sustainable development and related commitments into a new, over-arching commitment to earth stewardship.

    Mennonites: The church of Peace among people, the church of Stewardship of the earth they live on.
    Allan Siebert

  2. More mennonites need to hear this thoughtful message.They need to take a stand on this issue and not resist the scientific evidence. Mennonites have an important role to play so let us do it!!

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