GENEVA, 11 November 2013 – The Philippines’ lead negotiator at the UN Climate Change Convention, whose home town was devastated by super typhoon Haiyan, told today’s conference opening that “disasters are never natural”.
“We must stop calling events like these as natural disasters,” Mr Yeb Sano said in his address to the Convention's 19th Conference of the Parties in Warsaw.
“It is not natural when people continue to struggle to eradicate poverty and pursue development and get battered by the onslaught of a monster storm.
“Disasters are never natural. They are the intersection of factors other than physical. They are the accumulation of the constant breach of economic, social and environmental thresholds.
“Most of the time disasters are a result of inequity and the poorest people of the world are at greatest risk because of their vulnerability and decades of maldevelopment.”
Mr Sano said that super typhoon Haiyan was “a force too powerful” and was something that “perhaps no country has ever experienced before”.
“The initial assessment shows that Haiyan left a wake of massive devastation that is unprecedented, unthinkable and horrific, affecting two-thirds of the Philippines,” Mr Sano told the Conference.
“About half a million people are rendered homeless and there are scenes reminiscent of the aftermath of a tsunami, with a vast wasteland of mud and debris and dead bodies.”
Mr Sano issued a stern challenge to skeptics: “To anyone who continues to deny the reality that is climate change, I dare you to get off your ivory tower and away from the comfort of your armchair.
“Science tells us that simply climate change will mean more intense tropical storms. As the earth warms up, that would include the oceans. The energy that is stored in the waters off the Philippines will increase the intensity of typhoons and the trend we now see is that more destructive storms will be the new norm.”
Mr Sano called for urgent action: “We may ask: ‘If not us, then who?’, ‘If not now, then when?’, ‘If not here in Warsaw, where?’
“What my country is going through as a result of this extreme climate event is madness. The climate crisis is madness. We can stop this madness. Right here in Warsaw.”
Super typhoon Haiyan comes less than a year after typhoon Bopha, the Philippines’ previous costliest disaster and the one that had affected the most people.