Kepler habitable

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

A Sign of Things to Come: Examining Four Major Climate Related Disasters and their Impacts on Food Security in the Horn- Oxfam

This report analyses impacts of four extreme weather events (a heat wave in Russia, flooding in Pakistan, drought in East Africa, and a typhoon in the Philippines) on food security. For each case, the nature of the extreme weather is characterized, and its impact on vulnerable people is assessed by considering when and why threats emerge, and the role of governance in the state and non-state responses to the emergency. Scenarios of the plausible impacts of increased extreme weather severity on food security and other socioeconomic parameters are presented for each case.

East Africa drought

Ethiopia was best prepared, with pre-positioned state-sponsored safety nets. Kenya experienced political distractions. Somalia had no effective governance structures, responded too late, and entered famine.

Across the region a six-month delay in the large-scale international and domestic aid effort due to a general culture of risk aversion and in central/southern Somalia, wariness of the political situation and risks posed by armed groups.

Regional early warning signs were not heeded as required. Significant pressure on large refugee camps in Kenya and Ethiopia.

Food prices reached record levels in several markets. Each country had a symbol of the crisis: wheat in Ethiopia, maize in Kenya, and red sorghum in Somalia.

Children under five years of age were disproportionately affected, accounting for over half of all deaths in Somalia. Women and pastoralists were also impacted. There was huge swelling in already cramped refugee camps.

Philippines typhoon

Central government issued warnings and local governments are prepared for typhoons but not on this scale, and storm surges were new and not understood. A lack of support for the resumption of government services. Insufficient human resources hampered nutritional goals.

Distribution of assistance to affected farmers in more remote areas either limited or absent. Loss of citizen’s records and documents. Resettlement of fishing communities inland risks depriving them of livelihoods.

Only 17 percent of total (international + national) recovery projects aim to restore livelihoods.

The government made an urgent plea to the international community to combat climate change in response.

Extensive damage to two consecutive farming seasons led to higher rice prices.

Farming and fishing communities. Women, children and some ethnic minorities faced discrimination with aid distribution.

Climate Change

The four case studies analysed in Section 2 illustrate how extreme weather events can lead to widespread disturbances in food security. This section will consider how climate change might complicate this situation, by asking:

- How has the frequency and magnitude of such extreme weather events changed in the recent past and how might it change in future?

- Has climate change altered the risk of these extreme events occurring?

- If there are more intense extreme weather events more often, how might this affect food security?

First, we will discuss the association between human greenhouse gas emissions and extreme events, including a summary of the evidence about the potential role of climate change in each of the four extreme weather events focused on in this report. Then, we will consider illustrative scenario analyses of potential future risks including the potential implications of such changes for food security.

All extreme events have unique causes, in the sense that a combination of natural variability and external climate drivers lead to a specific event. Therefore it is not possible to say exactly how climate change will affect specific events such as heat waves in Russia, flooding in Pakistan, droughts in East Africa, or typhoons in the Philippines. However, it is possible to say how the likelihood of the types of events we understand and can model reliably – heat waves, floods, certain droughts – have changed due to climate change. But because of the fact that specific extreme events are caused by multiple local factors, as detailed in Section 2, statements attributing changes in the risk of an event to climate change have to be done on a case-by-case basis. On a global scale it can furthermore be said that the magnitude and frequency of heat waves and extreme precipitation events will increase, simply because of the increasing global temperatures and the ability of warmer air to hold more water vapour. However, as the global atmospheric circulation is expected to change as well only the increased risk of heat waves can be transferred from global to local and regional scales.

Against this background the scenarios explored at the end of this section are purely illustrative and cannot be assessed with respect to their likelihood of occurring in the future. However, from a climate scientific point of view all scenarios are plausible.

The Link

The influence of greenhouse gases on the climate system is unequivocal. We know that global temperatures rose during the 20th century due to human emissions, and are very likely to rise in future.137 Understanding the influence of greenhouse gases and global warming on extreme weather events is more difficult. This is partly because extreme events are, by definition, rare, and so data are limited, and partly because of natural variability in the climate system. Extreme weather has always occurred, and natural variability will continue to influence weather in future. However, scientists expect that emissions from fossil fuels will alter the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events, and there is an increasing amount of evidence to support this.