On Thursday, the Vatican will release Pope Francis’ first encyclical on the theme of the environment and the poor. In addition to emphasizing how environmental destruction and natural resource exploitation harm the poor, the document is expected to include a statement on role of humans in contributing to climate change. Given the Pope’s popularity, and as the spiritual leader of more than a billion Catholics around the world, his decision to narrow in on environmental exploitation and climate change has garnered significant attention from all sides.
Each year, millions of people across the globe are forced to flee disasters, primarily floods, storms, and other acute, weather-related events. As the effects of global climate change continue to unfold, more extreme weather, growing food insecurity, and other drivers of displacement will only increase.
As countries across the globe face more disasters from extreme weather, an upcoming conference in Japan may be key to protect those most vulnerable from the impacts of climate change.
Given the urgent need to act, the public is increasingly focusing on the UN climate change negotiations in Paris in December 2015. Yet much less talked about is another international conference kicking off tomorrow in Japan, the outcome of which could prove vital to protecting our communities and economies from the negative impacts of climate change.
A couple of days before Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) hit the Philippines on November 8, 2013, the residents of a small village in the mountains outside Tacloban noticed that the birds were behaving differently and then stopped singing. According to a local newspaper report, the 75 villagers recognized this as a warning and responded by preparing shelters. All of them survived the 250 mile-per-hour winds despite significant damage to their homes, gardens, and trees.
In the beachside village of Jagnayan, I walk along the rows of plywood temporary shelters – known here as bunkhouses – looking for Estralia, a woman I met when I was here last February. The residents of the bunkhouses are typhoon survivors whose homes were destroyed when super-typhoon Haiyan, the strongest ever to make landfall, wrought total destruction across this region a little over a year ago. More than 6,000 people were killed and 4 million left homeless.
Earlier this year, many heralded New Zealand’s grant of asylum to a family from the low-lying Pacific island nation of Tuvalu as the first legal recognition of “climate refugees.” This was not the case. While the applicants claimed that they would be victim to the impacts of climate change if returned to their country, the tribunal explicitly refrained from ruling on this matter and granted the family's appeal on unrelated humanitarian grounds.
This month, the people of central Philippines are marking a sad anniversary. On November 8, 2013, Typhoon Haiyan, one of the strongest typhoons ever to make landfall, drove a path of destruction across the region, killing over 6,000 people and displacing some four million.
On September 21, thousands of people will come together in New York City to demand action on global climate change. The People’s Climate March, which comes in advance of the United Nations Climate Summit on September 23, will not only be the largest climate march in history, but also the most diverse.
After decades of war punctuated by drought and famine, signs have emerged in recent years that Somalia may be heading toward a more peaceful and prosperous future. The terrorist group Al Shabab has been driven out of the capital and other areas (although attacks and assassinations are still a regular occurrence), a federal government has been elected and – despite limited capacity – assumed the reins of power, and economic projects are being planned and implemented.