The era of loss and damage from climate change is upon us

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* All opinions expressed in this opinion piece are those of the author and not of the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

As extreme weather conditions result in growing financial losses from Germany to the United States, it’s time to think again about victim compensation

Saleemul Huq is Director of the International Center for Climate Change and Development in Bangladesh and Senior Researcher at the International Institute for Environment and Development.

Sitting in Dhaka, Bangladesh, I was glued to my television watching the heartbreaking loss of so many lives and property due to the horrific flash floods in Germany over the past few days.

My heart goes out to all the victims.

However, what struck me about the large number of deaths that have been reported so far, many of which are still missing, is that this would not have happened in Bangladesh, where flooding is a phenomenon. regular every year during the monsoon season.

Bangladesh has several types of flooding in different parts of the country, including the overflow of two of the most powerful rivers in the world, the Ganges and the Brahmaputra, during the monsoon months as well as flash floods, such as those in Germany, from the Meghna River in the northeast of the country whenever there is heavy rainfall in the hills across the Indian border.

We also have short-lived urban flooding when cities like Dhaka and Chittagong receive very heavy rains. And then there is the coastal flooding associated with cyclones that affect low-lying coastal regions of the country.

It can be said with certainty that Bangladesh is a land of rivers, cyclones and floods which in the past would sometimes have caused huge numbers of deaths.

However, over the years, Bangladesh has invested to ensure that we do not lose more lives when such disasters strike us. We can now claim one of the best disaster warning systems, with evacuation plans and shelters for people. This means that even though we still have a lot of floods and cyclones and they still cause a lot of damage to crops and infrastructure, we have minimized the loss of life to a very large extent.

The loss of life that I have seen in Germany in recent days would no longer be thinkable in Bangladesh.

Therefore, I would like to offer some lessons from Bangladesh to Germany – and other rich countries that are also unprepared.

The first is that citizens living in a hazardous area should all be aware of the danger and be prepared to take action when it occurs.

In areas of Bangladesh prone to cyclones and floods, children learn this in school and do regular simulations. Children are one of the main ways to make sure families know what to do when they receive evacuation warnings.

The second major investment was in the technology to forecast and track both cyclones and flooding so that the weather service could issue regular updates to everyone on the state of affairs and when to expect them. let the cyclone or the floods hit us.

The third investment has been the dissemination of information to all citizens of the country – something easier now because almost all adults have a cell phone with which they can receive warnings.

Many even have smartphones on which they can watch the flood or cyclone from satellites in real time and figure out for themselves how long they have before they have to evacuate.

At the same time, warnings are being issued on radio and television as well as broadcast by thousands of Red Crescent volunteers and NGOs.

The latest investment that is now starting to take place is to ensure that the country is fit for the future impacts of climate change which, unfortunately, will increase the intensity of what were once normal floods and cyclones in the years to come.

The scientific community has already delivered the verdict that exceptionally strong floods and cyclones are now attributable to human-induced climate change, as the global average temperature has risen by more than one degree Celsius due to gas emissions at greenhouse effect by humans.

So while we need to redouble our efforts to reduce emissions and also to adapt to the impacts of climate change, I would say that we have now entered the era of having to deal with the loss and damage caused by induced climate change. by the man.

Chancellor Angela Merkel has already announced a fund of 300 million euros to help flood victims in Germany, and this figure is expected to run into billions by the end. It is really about financing the victims of the loss and damage caused by man-made climate change.

While she is absolutely right to be willing to raise money for her own citizens, she should also consider providing similar funding to victims of climate change in poorer countries who have asked for help. help to cope with loss and damage without any success so far.

Financing loss and damage for victims of human-induced climate change in the most vulnerable developing countries is probably a major expectation of the upcoming UN COP26 climate negotiations to be held in Glasgow, UK in November.

As extreme weather conditions multiply, for all of us, failing to properly address loss and damage will cause the COP to fail for many vulnerable developing countries.


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