World needs new response to natural disasters


AS more bodies are being pulled out of the rubble following an earthquake in Morocco, the reality is sinking in that the rising frequency of natural disasters around the world has severely stretched the existing international and national response mechanisms. Within the past few months, natural disasters have spiked, resulting in the death, destruction, and displacement of hundreds of thousands of people. The world therefore needs new strategies, more resources, and upgraded preventive measures to cope with rising human misery.

Across the continents, natural disasters are occurring with increasing frequency, making the world a more dangerous place. Governments, including Nigeria’s, need to adopt global, regional, and national proactive measures to limit the destructive impact of natural anomalies and deal with their aftermath.

The earthquake that hit Morocco’s Marrakesh-Safi region on September 8 read 6.8–6.9 on the Richter scale. By Wednesday, 2,900 persons had been confirmed dead, thousands more injured and thousands of others rendered homeless.

In Libya, more than 10,000 people had been reported killed and more than 30,000 displaced by midweek following the flooding in Derna, the United Nations International Organisation for Migration in Libya said. Bodies piled up in the streets of the northern coastal city after the torrential downpour smashed through two dams, washing homes into the sea. An estimated 10,000 more people are missing and the city’s mayor fears deaths could reach 20,000.

It was just one of eight devastating floods that occurred in the first 11 days of September across four continents, reported the NBC network.

In early August, a series of wildfires erupted in Hawaii, United States. The wind-driven fires prompted evacuations, and caused widespread damage, killing at least 115 people, and leaving at least 110 others missing. A month earlier, a record-breaking anticyclone had ploughed into several European countries.

An intense heat wave that formed over the Caribbean in June brought historically high temperatures across the region and broke numerous records. A stalled high-pressure system to the east of Puerto Rico formed a heat-dome, while dust from the Sahara Desert in Africa inhibited cloud formation. Meteorologists described the heat wave’s intensity as “unprecedented.”

In Asia, the UN reported several disasters in Afghanistan, Japan, Pakistan, Kiribati, Mongolia, China, India, Turkey, Indonesia, and the Philippines this year.

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Scientists have attributed hotter temperatures, severe storms, increased drought, and floods because of rising ocean levels to climate change. The UN lists five major causes: power generation from fossil fuels, industrial emissions, deforestation, fossil fuel-powered transportation, and food, which cause emission of carbon dioxide.

Beyond mere words therefore, the global concern about climate change needs to involve some concrete and specific actions.

In 2015, at the 21st session of the Conference of the Parties (COP-21) at the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change held in Paris, France, a legally binding and universal climate agreement was adopted to ensure that global temperature is kept below 2°C. But powerful countries such as the United States and China have flouted the COP 21 resolutions. Invariably, poorer countries bear the major brunt.

The world powers should change their unhelpful attitude towards global warming and lead the way in replenishing the ozone layer and the planet.

Nigeria’s federal, state, and local governments need to collaborate and adopt preventive measures to tackle the effects of climate change. The country has suffered floods, desertification, and erosion, but has so far been spared the magnitude of the disastrous wildfires, hurricanes, volcanic eruption, tsunamis, and earthquakes that have ravaged other countries.

But it cannot afford to be complacent. Stronger laws, and regulations backed by scientific research and in line with global best practices should be adopted and enforced.

Alternative sources of energy, which reduce emissions, need to be explored. Industries and manufacturers should comply with climate change guidelines and conventions. Infrastructure should be put in place to reduce the death toll from natural disasters. The relevant agencies that should detect impending climatic and natural problems at national and sub-national levels should be strengthened, well-staffed, equipped and funded.

Diverse natural disasters are making the world more dangerous; Nigeria should not be caught unawares by any.


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