Natural disasters cause colossal damage: it’s time change our behaviour

Juliette Bretan 16 September 2017

The recent flooding wrought by Hurricane Harvey and monsoons in South Asia are some of the largest humanitarian disasters occurring at the moment. However, much of the news coverage regarding these and similar disasters has been almost entirely focused on dealing with the symptoms as opposed to treating the underlying disease.

Both the monsoon floods and the hurricane are some of the largest of their types – and the severity of these have only been increasing year on year. Similarly, 16 of the 17 hottest years on record have occurred since the year 2001. As temperatures rise, and they will continue to do so, the humidity in the air increases, increasing the impact of these disasters. Climate change is the disease, and yet the majority of world governments seem ill prepared, unequipped, and generally incompetent to deal with this major issue.

Over the pond in the US, for example, the recent censoring of climate change within the government, combined with the decrease in funding for both the NOAA and EPA has restricted the ability of these organisations to attempt to begin to deal with the issues they are facing. Dumping the Paris Agreement has likewise negatively impacted the ability to respond to these changes, meanwhile the President, a notable climate change denier (publically at least; his opinion seems to be conflicted as he attempts to build flood defenses for one of his Irish golf courses) is hardly even paying lip service to one of the largest issues facing the world today.

Back at home we aren’t much better. I’m sure most will remember how disliked Michael Gove was as Education Secretary, and yet he has been made the new Secretary of State for the Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs. The recent promise to ban on petrol and diesel cars in 2040 is both too little, and far too late. The dissolution of the Department of Energy and Climate Change demonstrates the lack of respect the current government has regarding this issue. Simultaneously, the government is pressing ahead with fracking in various regions of the country inspite of both local council’s rejecting it, and protests to prevent it occuring.

It appears that our government has chosen to completely ignore the will both of the people and of the earth for money. This is further shown in how both refugees and migrants are being portrayed as scapegoats for terrorism and the increasing strain on our public health services, while the government is continuing to send arms to Saudi Arabia (who are currently perpetuating the largest current humanitarian disaster in Yemen) and selling off parts of the NHS. Theresa May is currently sitting on a report about funding of extremists which is believed to implicate the Saudis, while simultaneously selling arms to these other governments in an attempt apparently to make up for the loss of trade we are likely to face with Brexit; it appears that in the Brexiteers attempt to isolate ourselves we’ve instead ended up in bed with a government embroiled in a war in which war crimes are a daily occurrence. Yet again, it appears we are being reactive as opposed to proactive.

At some point we really have to ask how far this has to go, how many people have to die in terror attacks and in climate change assisted natural disasters before we, both as people and as governments, decide that enough is enough and it is time to act. I hope it will be sooner rather than later.