The world should react with the same urgency to climate change as is to the coronavirus crisis, the Red Cross says, warning that global warming poses a greater threat than COVID-19.
Even as the pandemic rages, climate change is not taking a break from wreaking havoc, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) said in a report.
In its report on global catastrophes since the 1960s, the Geneva-based organisation pointed out that the world had been hit by more than 100 disasters – many of them climate-related – since the World Health Organization declared the pandemic in March.
More than 50 million people had been affected, it said.
“Of course, the COVID is there, it’s in front of us, it is affecting our families, our friends, our relatives,” IFRC Secretary-General Jagan Chapagain told a virtual news conference.
“It’s a very, very serious crisis the world is facing currently,” he said of the pandemic, which has already killed more than 1.3 million people.
‘No vaccine for climate change’
But, he warned, the IFRC expects “climate change will have a more significant medium and long term impact on the human life and on Earth”.
And while it looks increasingly likely that one or several vaccines would soon become available against COVID-19, Chapagain stressed that “unfortunately, there is no vaccine for climate change”.
Global efforts to tackle climate change are currently failing to protect the people in greatest need, according to IFRC’s World Disasters Report 2020.
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— IFRC (@ifrc) November 17, 2020
When it comes to global warming, he warned, “it will require a much more sustained action and investment to really protect the human life on this Earth”.
The frequency and intensity of extreme weather and climate-related events have been steadily climbing since the 1960s, said the IFRC.
In 2019 alone, the world was hit by 308 natural disasters – 77 percent of them climate or weather-related – killing some 24,400 people.
The number of climate and weather-related disasters has surged by nearly 35 percent since the 1990s, IFRC said, calling it a “deadly development”.
Weather and climate-related disasters have killed more than 410,000 people over the past decade, most of them in poorer countries, with heatwaves and storms proving the most deadly, the report said.
Faced with this threat, which “literally threatens our long-term survival”, IFRC called on the international community to act with the urgency required.
“These disasters are already on the doorstep in every country around the world,” it said.
“With challenges like these, international solidarity is not only a moral responsibility but also the smart thing to do.
“Investing in resilience in the most vulnerable places is more cost-effective than to accept continued increases in the cost of humanitarian response, and contributes to a safer, more prosperous and sustainable world for everyone,” it added.
The IFRC estimated that around $50bn would be needed annually over the next decade to help 50 developing countries adapt to the changing climate.
It stressed that that amount was “dwarfed by the global response to the economic impact of COVID-19,” which has already passed $10 trillion.
It also lamented that much of the money invested so far in climate change prevention and mitigation was not going to the developing countries who are most at risk.
“Our first responsibility is to protect communities that are most exposed and vulnerable to climate risks,” Chapagain said, warning that “our research demonstrates that the world is collectively failing to do this.”
“There is a clear disconnect between where the climate risk is the greatest and where climate adaptation funding goes,” he said.
“This disconnection could very well cost lives.”