Climate extremes that we could hardly imagine and cope with every 20 years are going to happen every two years in this century. This is the message of a sobering report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change about the dramatic climate extremes that are expected to increase around the world.
Meeting on the margins of the World Bank/IMF spring meetings on April 20 to discuss the implications of the report for their work on building resilience, donors, developing countries and international organizations reaffirmed their commitment to making disaster resilience a priority in development planning. The group of leading officials also agreed that integrating disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation into the development agenda is critical to building resilience in communities and countries.
"We have too often witnessed how disasters can roll back years of development progress," said World Bank Managing Director Mahmoud Mohieldin. "On top of that, we now need to prepare for a changing world—rapid urbanization and a changing climate are reshaping and exacerbating disaster risks. But as we discussed today, geography need not be destiny, and the future—however uncertain and unpredictable when we factor in the impact of climate change—need not be feared if correct preventive policies are taken today.”
Convened by the European Union, the Government of Japan, and the World Bank/GFDRR (Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery), the Resilience Dialogue was informed by last month’s IPCC report Managing the Risk of Extreme Events and Disasters to Advance Climate Change Adaptation.
Christopher Field, co-chair of the IPCC Working Group ll, warned the group: “The risk profiles are changing—several kinds of climate and weather extremes are increasing and are projected to increase in the future. In the second half of the century, we are looking at a ten-fold increase in the frequency of severe heat events. The most extreme heat waves that we currently experience only once a decade will become annual events.”
Field pointed out that we are, in many places, already seeing increases in extremes in heavy precipitation and in the length and severity of droughts. For many poor communities living in areas already exposed to even moderate climate events, such as floods, this is indeed bad news. The people most impacted are those most vulnerable in the developing world—in 2010, the Pakistan floods alone left six million people homeless.
Floods are the most frequent of all natural disasters. A recent World Bank paper on cities and flooding estimates that flooding in 2010 affected 178 million people. Unprecedented―and often unregulated and unplanned―urbanization in the developing world, a large part of which is in fertile floodplains and/or coastal regions, is a key cause of increased exposure to flooding. In China, 100 million people have moved from inland to coastal areas in the last 20 years. Globally 600 million people will occupy coastal floodplain land below flood level by 2100.
Indonesia knows too well the horrendous impact that disasters can have―the cost in lives and GDP. The 2004 tsunami took more than 200,000 lives. But Indonesia has learned from its disasters.
“Indonesia faces more than 100 disasters a year,” said Armida Alisjahbana Minister of National Development Planning, Indonesia. “In 2004, the tsunami cost about 45 percent of Aceh's regional economy. We have tried since to prepare for disasters in a more systematic way—early warning systems in disaster-prone areas, more coordinated efforts, money in our budget to anticipate disasters, a five-year blueprint to prepare for disasters. The key to make coordination work, the key thing is to have a single institution dealing with these issues. We don’t have institutions duplicating work.”