UN warns of 'megadisasters' linked to climate change

Jun 17, 2009
UN humanitarian chief John Holmes
UN humanitarian chief John Holmes speaks during a press conference in Khartoum in May 2009. Some of the world's biggest cities are at growing risk of "megadisasters", the UN's humanitarian chief said Tuesday, warning that climate change was behind a rising number of natural catastrophes.

The United Nations on Tuesday raised the prospect of "megadisasters" affecting millions of people in some of the world's biggest cities unless more is done to heed the threat of climate change.

"We are going to see more disasters and more intense disasters as a result of climate change," UN Under Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs John Holmes said at the opening of a four-day conference on reducing disaster risks.

The Red Cross joined the UN in urging more investment to ensure that cities, villages and small communities were better prepared for natural disasters that are being amplified by global warming.

Natural and man-made disasters killed nearly a quarter of a million people in 2008 and warnings about looming disasters, particularly climate change, are not being heeded, the Red Cross said.

At 242,662 people worldwide, this was the second biggest annual toll of the past decade, according to a report by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.

Nine in 10 of those disasters were weather-related and they caused up to 200 billion dollars (145 billion euros) worth of damage, Holmes said, calling it an "enormous concern".

"The effects of climate change are being felt now, they're not simply some future threat."

Holmes said some of the world's biggest cities, housing more than 10 million people each, were highly exposed, since they were located in coastal areas that would be threatened by rising sea levels or in earthquake zones.

"The risks of megadisasters in some of these megacities are rising all the time," the UN relief chief warned, predicting a soaring death toll from future natural catastrophes.

The Red Cross cautioned that only piecemeal progress had been made on prevention and measures to make communities more resilient to floods, drought, storms and earthquakes, despite the warnings about more extreme weather events.

The federation's annual "World Disasters Report" published Tuesday highlighted climate change as "offering us the ultimate early warning."

"The rising dangers of require a response from governments equivalent to the one made to address the global financial crisis," said Bekele Geleta, Secretary General of the federation.

But he warned in the report that there was "much resistance to change", with the focus still on emergency aid after the event rather than preparing for the worst.

"This seems to be a lesson that individuals, donors, countries and some of the 'humanitarian community' have yet to learn," Geleta said.

The measures advocated at the conference include adequate community flood or weather alerts, shelters, better building standards to resist bad weather or quakes, and avoiding settlements in high risk areas.

Holmes estimated that about three billion dollars a year could be mobilised by setting aside one percent of development assistance and 10 percent of global humanitarian aid for precautionary projects.

The 585 natural or man-made catastrophes that occurred in 2008 represented the lowest annual total the past decade.

The overwhelming majority of the deaths occurred in the Sichuan earthquake in China where more than 87,000 people died, and cyclone Nargis, which claimed more than 138,000 lives when it swept through coastal areas of Myanmar.

The Red Cross report likened forecasting the impact of global warming to rolling a dice: "We never know when a particular number will appear, but at some point every number comes up."

"Confronted with global warming and growing vulnerability, we also know the dice is loaded."

(c) 2009 AFP

Explore further: New water balance calculation for the Dead Sea

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

UN: Growth of slums boosting natural disaster risk

May 17, 2009

(AP) -- The rampant growth of urban slums around the world and weather extremes linked to climate change have sharply increased the risks from "megadisasters" such as devastating floods and cyclones, a U.N. ...

UN sketches countries with climate risk profile

Jun 11, 2009

Disasters caused by climate change will inflict the highest losses in poor countries with weak governments that have dashed for growth and failed to shield populations which settle in exposed areas, a UN report ...

Researcher: Global warming not to blame for tsunami

Jan 21, 2005

The shock and awe resulting from the massive tsunami that hit Indian Ocean nations Dec. 26 has left many wondering what could have caused such a disaster – and if there is anything humans can do to control or mitigate future ...

Confronting worldwide disaster losses

Nov 05, 2007

In the current edition of leading journal Science, an international team of experts argues that governments and policymakers worldwide need to take swift action now to minimise mounting losses due to future natural disast ...

Save our reef, save our heritage

Jul 19, 2007

Protecting the Great Barrier Reef from the impacts of climate change, natural disasters and rising human pressures will be a key test of Australia’s ability to keep our natural environment healthy and resilient.

Recommended for you

New water balance calculation for the Dead Sea

3 hours ago

The drinking water resources on the eastern, Jordanian side of the Dead Sea could decline severe as a result of climate change than those on the western, Israeli and Palestinian side. This is the conclusion ...

Studying wetlands as a producer of greenhouse gases

9 hours ago

(Phys.org) —Wetlands are well known for their beneficial role in the environment. But UConn Honors student Emily McInerney '15 (CAHNR) is studying a less widely known role of wetlands – as a major producer ...

User comments : 32

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Ensa
3 / 5 (6) Jun 17, 2009
Wait for it.........
omatumr
2.8 / 5 (11) Jun 17, 2009
GLOBAL WARMING BECAME CLIMATE CHANGE, BUT

disaster looms ahead anyway. What poppycock!

The prediction of Al Gore and the UN's IPCC was wrong, so they change the name of the predicted disaster from "Global Warming" to 'Climate Change."

Is this the same guy that was trying to sell used cars driven only by retired school teachers?

How sad that the Nobel Committee joined forces with this bunch!

With kind regards,
Oliver K. Manuel
http://www.omatumr.com/

Noein
2.3 / 5 (9) Jun 17, 2009
Good work, omatumr. You'll be getting a gas coupon in the mail as a reward for spreading big oil's gospel of lies, distortions, and obfuscation.
dirk_bruere
5 / 5 (2) Jun 17, 2009
And if the numbers of victims of natural disasters doubled it would still be less than the numbers killed in road accidents worldwide. And don't even think about the effects of tobacco.
Quantum_Conundrum
5 / 5 (5) Jun 17, 2009
Cyclone Nargis was a 500 year storm. Even the historical meteorolists said that it has happened before. why the alarmists make such a big deal about it is beyond me.

The reason the death tolls keep going up from cyclones is because more and more idiots keep building houses right up to the coast, especially in 3rd world countries where they still make houses out of nothing more than palm branches.

===
Articles like this irk me. We've got a 6000 degree ball of molten metal with a diameter of about 8000 miles beneath our feet, and these idiots blame an earthquake on a few factories and automobiles.
GrayMouser
3.7 / 5 (6) Jun 17, 2009
Good work, omatumr. You'll be getting a gas coupon in the mail as a reward for spreading big oil's gospel of lies, distortions, and obfuscation.

"Big Oil" is in bed with the IPCC and so-called "green" laws. Why else would Enron (remember them?) and British Petroleum try to convince Bush to support carbon credits, wind farms, etc.?
GrayMouser
3.7 / 5 (6) Jun 17, 2009
The reason the death tolls keep going up from cyclones is because more and more idiots keep building houses right up to the coast, especially in 3rd world countries where they still make houses out of nothing more than palm branches.

Even in the US the insurance companies are starting to refuse to insure homes in hurricane prone areas. Something they should have done a long time ago (it would have discouraged growth in to areas prone to flooding.

Articles like this irk me. We've got a 6000 degree ball of molten metal with a diameter of about 8000 miles beneath our feet, and these idiots blame an earthquake on a few factories and automobiles.

And we all respect the scientific credentials of the "UN humanitarian chief". Or is it just that the UN is propagandizing in lock-step?
Velanarris
3 / 5 (2) Jun 22, 2009
Good work, omatumr. You'll be getting a gas coupon in the mail as a reward for spreading big oil's gospel of lies, distortions, and obfuscation.


"Big Oil" is in bed with the IPCC and so-called "green" laws. Why else would Enron (remember them?) and British Petroleum try to convince Bush to support carbon credits, wind farms, etc.?

Enron realized there was more money to be had in controlling emissions than providing energy.

It gave Enron a market controlling ability. Sure being one of the largest Natural Gas providers makes you pretty powerful, but having dominion over all Natural Gas providers makes you the master of the fiefdom.
Dragontide
3.7 / 5 (3) Jun 22, 2009
It won't be long before we look back to now as "the good ole days" If you think it's bad now, wait a few years. You ain't seen nothing yet.
Shootist
2.3 / 5 (3) Jun 22, 2009
UN wants more control over humanity. Will say anything to get it.
Dragontide
2.3 / 5 (3) Jun 22, 2009
UN wants more control over humanity. Will say anything to get it.

You can't fake global warming. The greenhouse effect was first concidered way back in the 1820s. This has to be the absolute worst example of "putting things off till the last minute" Amazing that hurricanes Ike, Katrina, the cyclones of the Far East in recent years, the tropical type flooding in Boston, New York and New Jersey, the Australian droughts, the declining mountian glaciers around the globe and the world surface temperature heat splat that started in the late 90s (and is still here today) has not been concidered as a "wake up call!"
Velanarris
2.3 / 5 (3) Jun 23, 2009
What flooding in Boston? Lived and worked here my entire life, there's been no flooding other than the winter of 06 when we had so much snow we couldn't get rid of it fast enough and the environazi's wouldn't let us push it into the harbor due to "street debris".

FYI: Global warming would reduce cyclone activity, not increase it.
Dragontide
1 / 5 (2) Jun 23, 2009
What flooding in Boston? Lived and worked here my entire life, there's been no flooding other than the winter of 06 when we had so much snow we couldn't get rid of it fast enough and the environazi's wouldn't let us push it into the harbor due to "street debris".

Ok just ouside Boston.
http://www.boston...s_havoc/

Then the Jersey flood a few weeks later.
http://nj.usgs.go...ood0606/

Then again the next year.
http://nj.usgs.go...ood0407/

Then more flooding in Mass. last week.
http://www.boston...looding/

FYI: Global warming would reduce cyclone activity, not increase it.

Oh great! Severe flooding followed by severe drought. Let the good times roll! *rolls eyes*
defunctdiety
1 / 5 (2) Jun 23, 2009
FYI: Global warming would reduce cyclone activity, not increase it.


Velanarris, again you're talking out of your keester. First of all there's many types of cyclones. Second, just about all of them would be made more likely to develop and more severe, due to the increased energy and moisture in the system that increased equatorial and global temperatures would cause. Not to mention a feedback that could be caused by cyclones putting more moisture in the atmosphere.
Velanarris
2.3 / 5 (3) Jun 25, 2009
Cyclones are all formed by disparaity in the thermal equilibrium of either water, or the atmosphere.

Global warming would make more of the planet the same temperature as the tropics.

Explain how it would intensify cyclone activity. Be specific.

Dragontide, a flood in Merrimack valley is an annual event. It happens every year. Same thing with the Pittsfield flash floods, they happen all the time. Not new or interesting.
defunctdiety
1 / 5 (1) Jun 25, 2009
Cyclones are all formed by disparaity in the thermal equilibrium of either water, or the atmosphere.

Global warming would make more of the planet the same temperature as the tropics.


Your second sentence there, the one which apparently your entire argument here is based on, is unfortunately incorrect and I'm pretty sure you're smart enough to know it (basic meteorological principles). Unfortunate your hubris won't allow you to admit you're wrong or at least that you didn't actually have any clue what you were talking about.

Yes, extratropical cyclones form along weather fronts. Which are two masses of air, as you said, with a temperature/density/moisture disparity. Fronts are not diminished in any way because of global warming, in fact said warming only polarizes the temperature/moisture differences (energy potentials) further, as the cold air masses are not warmed more than the already warm air is warmed. Infact, the warm air is warmed substantially and significantly more than the higher latitude cold air is warmed. Additionally, warmer air holds more moisture, moisture holds energy which drives cyclones when the air masses meet.

Tropical cyclones require warm sea surface temperatures, atmospheric instability and humidity. Surface temps would be increased by warmer air, this correlation alone would increase a cyclones chance of forming. If evaporation is increased as well, as is logical, this will allow for at least proportionate humidity if not increased. The atmospheric instability is caused by the Coriolis effect and some other already existant weather disturbance (low level front, wind shear, etc.). At worst these disturbances are independent of uniform warming, at best they are increased by localized warming.

Global warming would do absolutely nothing to decrease the chances of any of the basic physical properties/phenomenon that give rise to cyclones, you are simply flat wrong.
Velanarris
2.3 / 5 (3) Jun 25, 2009
Global warming would do absolutely nothing to decrease the chances of any of the basic physical properties/phenomenon that give rise to cyclones, you are simply flat wrong.

Incorrect, and this is why:
Fronts are not diminished in any way because of global warming, in fact said warming only polarizes the temperature/moisture differences (energy potentials) further, as the cold air masses are not warmed more than the already warm air is warmed.

As described and experimentally evidenced in multiple cases, in heterogeneous systems, warming will occur in the coldest and driest places first, until the system reaches a state of relative equilibrium at which point in time the temperature of the entire system will rise.

Your assumption that warmer air would have to warm first is incorrect, making your rebuttal false.
Dragontide
1 / 5 (1) Jun 25, 2009
Vel:

Merrimack Valley does not flood to that extreme every year. The one in 2006 was the worst flooding in 70 years. And the NY NJ floods are not normal either. As the NE becomes more tropical your going to notice a LOT a major changes up there.
defunctdiety
not rated yet Jun 25, 2009
As described and experimentally evidenced in multiple cases, in heterogeneous systems, warming will occur in the coldest and driest places first, until the system reaches a state of relative equilibrium at which point in time the temperature of the entire system will rise.


This is really quite rich Velanarris, because I would wager that you've said yourself how invalid models and experiments are at replicating global climate systems and here you are trying to salvage your "cred" with them.

Unfortunately, your models are not what is observed or occurs in reality, what with ocean and wind currents, albedo, solar energy atmospheric absorption, geothermal radiation, etc. Your classification of the earth, and everything in it and on it, and atmosphere as a single heterogeneous system is quite puzzling really. It's many systems with many different kinds of thermodynamic and chemical reactions influencing them all in different ways, and them in turn each other. Care to try again?
Velanarris
1 / 5 (1) Jun 26, 2009
Care to try again?
There is no try again, this isn't a model, it's an observation of thermodynamics.

Merrimack Valley does not flood to that extreme every year. The one in 2006 was the worst flooding in 70 years.
You're right, it was the most extreme, do you know why?

The levy system on the Merrimack river failed. Once again, this flooding is not due to AGW. The Merrimack valley was flooded due to winter meltwater and poor levy maintenance.

We're waiting for a tropical climate up here. It'll save us thousands in expense heating our homes.

DT, you like to tout the figure that 300,000 die each year from AGW. Do you know how many people die from winter each year in New England alone?
Dragontide
not rated yet Jun 26, 2009
Vel:
The 300,000 per year is a first time, new study (I knew you didn't read it) And I see you really do not know the difference between climate and weather. Even as the world surface temperatures continue to rise, It will still get cold during the winter in New England. It's not the utility bill savior you seem to think it is. Your biggest concern will be massive flooding and tropical disease. (well until the west dries up and they all head east)
defunctdiety
not rated yet Jun 26, 2009
You're still using the "classic" heterogeneous system as a model, and that's a gross oversimplification.
Velanarris
1 / 5 (1) Jun 26, 2009
You're still using the "classic" heterogeneous system as a model, and that's a gross oversimplification.

You may see it as a gross oversimplification, but scientists see it as a yard stick through which relevant theories are tested against the framework of thermodynamics which holds true by observation in millions of experiments thus far, the subject matter of which involves not only the most simple of systems but some incredibly complex systems as well. Complexity and scope are independent of this finding.

Vel:
The 300,000 per year is a first time, new study (I knew you didn't read it) And I see you really do not know the difference between climate and weather. Even as the world surface temperatures continue to rise, It will still get cold during the winter in New England.

Yes, I did read your study, which was a gross oversimplification involving figures surmized during a heat wave that killed thousands in Paris. It takes no note of the average age, corollary diseases, pulmonary health and a wide range of other factors in its findings. It is very rough at best.

As for weather and climate, keep breaking this chestnut out and see where it gets you.

Climate is weather over time. If the climate changes, guess what, the regional weather changes as well. Global warming would reduce the length of winter and in some cases make seasonal differences null. A prime example of this is the Cretaceous period at which time the average global temperature was higher by several degrees, CO2 concentration was higher, and seasonal variations were minimal.

Thank you for assuming I'm incorrect because we have differing views, DT. Just drop the weather/climate piece as you have never defined what either is from your point of view, even when asked directly.
defunctdiety
not rated yet Jun 27, 2009
Complexity and scope are independent of this finding.


You're simply wrong. Show us one experiment or example where the entire physicality of our planet (inner earth, earth's crust, and the many layers of atmosphere) which makes up the system responsible for the temperature distribution of the earth is described as a heterogeneous system. Be specific.
defunctdiety
not rated yet Jun 27, 2009
We're talking about multiple systems with too widely varying intensive parameters.
Dragontide
not rated yet Jun 28, 2009
Vel:
And the climate HAS changed. And it's only the beginning.

I was looking at the temps for this year and it's obvious 2009 will also be in the top 10 of the warmest years in recorded history. So to any sceptic out there: Your story will not hold water until there is at least one (1) year in the 21th century that is below or at least at the 20th century mean. Not even remotly close so far.
Velanarris
1 / 5 (1) Jun 28, 2009
Vel:

And the climate HAS changed. And it's only the beginning.
I was looking at the temps for this year and it's obvious 2009 will also be in the top 10 of the warmest years in recorded history. So to any sceptic out there: Your story will not hold water until there is at least one (1) year in the 21th century that is below or at least at the 20th century mean. Not even remotly close so far.

Then post 'em, there's not one locale in the US that's anywhere near above average.

You're simply wrong. Show us one experiment or example where the entire physicality of our planet (inner earth, earth's crust, and the many layers of atmosphere) which makes up the system responsible for the temperature distribution of the earth is described as a heterogeneous system. Be specific.
I'll have to state that there are no experiments that satisfy that claim as there are no experiements that can be performed on a system that physically large. Hence why climatologists are using models.

But the evidence is in those very models. Read the researech associated with the IPCC model systems, and the independent model systems, the warmming always starts at the coolest and driest parts of the system.

This can also be evidenced by our proxies back to the Cretaceous period, the main difference in climate for that time period was a greater band of tropical flora and fauna in addition to less seasonal variability across the globe.
defunctdiety
not rated yet Jun 28, 2009
This can also be evidenced by our proxies back to the Cretaceous period, the main difference in climate for that time period was a greater band of tropical flora and fauna in addition to less seasonal variability across the globe.


This larger band of tropical clime is not the same as your "warming first in the coldest and driest", indeed it is exactly what I stated, equitorial warming. If you look in another topic I've posted in http://www.physor...705.html this band is exactly what I'm talking about.

The point is, if it was as simple as you say, then the world would all be one temperature already (don't you think a few hundred-million years is enough to achieve equilibrium?). There are other mechanisms and thermodynamic interactions that are preventing it from manifesting as you say it will, like air and ocean currents and the atmosphere.

Another point is that a wider tropical band, which it sounds like this is something we both agree on, will not decrease the likely hood or severity of cyclones, it just makes a larger breeding ground for them.
Velanarris
1 / 5 (1) Jun 30, 2009
I think there's a disconnect between you and I.

I'm not saying that warming won't occur in other zones, but that it will be more pronounced in cooler and drier zones.

To exemplify: Let's say Brazil warms by 0.2 degrees. Antartica would warm by a multiple of that creating a smaller disparity, not a greater one.

As for widening of the tropical band, I agree, that would change cyclonic activity, however, it would not increase cyclonic activity, it would migrate where cyclonic activity forms in a poleward manner. Storms would begin formation at a parallel further from the equator, which would have to be adapted to, however, much of this is conjecture on both our parts as the basis for cyclonic formation is under great debate.
defunctdiety
not rated yet Jul 02, 2009
To exemplify: Let's say Brazil warms by 0.2 degrees. Antartica would warm by a multiple of that creating a smaller disparity, not a greater one.


The effect is not that broad, Vel, and you know it. Wind and ocean currents, atmospheric density, albedo, all these things, and more, affect the reality of warming in any given locale/microclimate and it's simply not as simple as you say and never will be. To reiterate, if it was as you say, don't you think the last few hundreds of millions of years of geological and global "modernity" would be enough time for the system to reach thermal equilibrium. There's other physical and thermodynamic mechanisms preventing things from happening exactly (as broadly) as you say. It's never going to destroy microclimates, there will always be weather.

...it would not increase cyclonic activity, it would migrate where cyclonic activity forms in a poleward manner. Storms would begin formation at a parallel further from the equator...


Hate to break it to you, but cyclonic activity occurs at all latitudes already, even polar, it's a pesky characteristic of microclimates. It would certainly push the ability of tropical-type cyclones to form into higher latitudes, but it would not simply migrate them all. Can you truly not see the truth of the one applicable simple principle here? That the more energy there is in a system, the more frequent and intense it's interactions will be?

I'm done with this one. I see that, your pomposity will never allow you to admit any level of concession after you've already stated your belief, even when you're unable to present a convincing argument against the contrary.
Dragontide
not rated yet Jul 03, 2009
Vel:

How can you be so clueless to cite US temperatures what we are talking about "global" warming? Sure the US has been cooler than the rest of the world but yet the US is still feeling the effects of climate change. Did you see the bees attack that San Diego Padres game? Just wait until those crop eating insects get here.
Velanarris
1 / 5 (1) Jul 21, 2009
Vel:
How can you be so clueless to cite US temperatures what we are talking about "global" warming? Sure the US has been cooler than the rest of the world but yet the US is still feeling the effects of climate change. Did you see the bees attack that San Diego Padres game? Just wait until those crop eating insects get here.

Well let's talk reality. The US is the largest producer of CO2, wouldn't we be the hottest? It only stands to reason more heat would be trapped at the source of CO2 production regardless of the dissemination.

Second, crop eating insects? You've proven yourself an idiot. Without bees, you have no crops.