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After Haiyan, why can’t the world act against the biggest threat facing mankind?

an edited version of Turning the Tide On Climate Change by LucAleria, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license, file at the death toll heads towards 5,000, perhaps many thousands more, and amid pictures of horrendous and unprecedented destruction, the question on the lips of humanity still lies cold: when will the world take climate change seriously?

It is almost unbelievable that in the immediate aftermath of the Tacloban hell on earth, Japan chose to downgrade its emissions reduction target from 25% to 3.8%, Australia provocatively ignored the Paris climate change summit and indicated it would disband its Climate Change ministry, and Canada made clear it would not let environmental catastrophe stand in the way of its prospective oil and gas fracking bonanza.

The only failure of the Philippine wipe-out was that it wasn’t located in Europe or the US: then the world would really have heeded it and, just possibly, changed course.

It’s not as though the evidence isn’t overwhelming. Extreme weather events, out of all proportion to the natural cycle, have abounded in the last few years.

  • The devastating flood in Pakistan in 2010 destroyed 1.5 million acres of croplands and ruined the livelihood of over 20 million people.
  • The drought in East Africa in 2011 affected over 13 million people and caused famine in Somalia.
  • The drought in Russia in 2012 destroyed nearly a quarter of the grain harvest.
  • Forest fires raging out of control have consumed vast teritories in both Australia and the US.
  • The US alone has suffered 25 extreme weather events since 2011, each of which has caused damages exceeding $1 billion.
  • It is estimated that extreme weather killed 530,000 people last year, 175 times more deaths than at 9/11 which rocked the world.
  • The total damage caused by this extreme weather last year is reckoned to exceed $2.5 trillions.

What more evidence is needed? Yet still the world, after wringing its hands at each new disaster, then turns its head away. The US won’t take decisive action unless its global rival, China, takes similar action, for fear that climate change is simply a ruse to rob it of its economic supremacy. The developed countries require the developing countries to sign up to emission reduction targets, but the latter complain that climate change was caused by the dirty industrialisations of the lead countries over the last 200 years and they should not be expected to carry the burden themselves.

The rich countries are curmudgeonly in their adaptation aid to the poorest countries affected, yet the most damaged countries of all – Haiti and the Philippines – are left to pay the price for the wealth-producing industrialisation from which they are excluded. And despite the cumulative afflictions, the modern Pharoah once again hardens his heart and will not give up his way of life to which he is addicted.

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