Red Cross fears year of natural disasters due to El Niño and climate change
Due to climate change and the natural phenomenon of El Niño, the Red Cross fears that a year of natural disasters is ahead. “The Red Cross already provides more than average emergency aid after natural disasters. And this is likely just the beginning,” the organization said.
It has been clear for some time that the natural phenomenon of El Niño is forming because the seawater along the equator in the Pacific Ocean is warming. The peak of El Niño usually comes in December, so the natural phenomenon has long been named after the Christmas child.
In large parts of the world, this affects the weather. For example, El Niño increases the risk of heat and drought in many parts of the world. Some parts of Asia and South America are more likely to get a lot of rainfall, which can lead to flooding. All in all, the Red Cross says it's “bracing” for a “season full of cyclones, floods, and life-threatening heat.”
The aid organization expects to have to expand all over the world and hopes that the impact of natural disasters on people will remain as small as possible. Meanwhile, the effects of climate change have been evident in the news in recent months, with floods, landslides, and wildfires all over the world, said Derk Segaar, Red Cross head of International Aid.
“In Europe, we are now seeing what extreme weather is doing: it takes human lives, destroys homes, nature is literally on fire,” said Segaar. Climate change and the last time El Niño showed itself strongly resulted in the hottest year on record in 2016.
Segaar pointed out that many wildfires remain underexposed, especially in countries further away from the Netherlands. “We read much less about the deadly heat in Iran, disease outbreaks in Bangladesh, and floods in Vietnam.” That while people in these vulnerable countries are often hit the hardest, he said, “People are sometimes still recovering from previous disaster or conflict. And then the next misery is already at the door.”
The Red Cross is currently calculating where a possible flood or cyclone will have the largest impact. The aid organization already wants to reinforce homes there, prepare water for when drought strikes, and inform farmers so that they can harvest their crops before the land floods. “That can save lives,” said Segaar. “And it’s much less costly to act now than after the fact.”
Reporting by ANP