Last week’s article focused on how war ranks as the top political risk, according to the 2023 Allianz Risk Barometer. The current article is still on the Allianz Risk Barometer, but with a focus on the impact of climate change on the environment and livelihoods. Climate change remains in the top-10 global risks, says the Barometer.
The Allianz Barometer points out that failure of governments to reverse effects of climate change on the environment and livelihoods could spark the next round of social, political and violence across the world, especially in countries where farming and fishing are the main economic activities for the majority populations of poor countries. “Resentment can be further fuelled if a government is seen to respond inadequately or with excessive force,” says the Report. In Ghana, Allianz and other business entities promoting awareness on climate change are represented by Thomas William Jefferson Cook Dankwah, Executive Director-Hanssen Global UK & Ghana Ltd.
Urgency to act
Not only is climate change and global warming threatening sovereign countries, but they are also impacting companies in a number of different ways. The Allianz Barometer notes that climate change-related disasters often cause higher property damage and business interruption risks. As a result, the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) 2023 assessment has once again highlighted the urgency for stakeholders to act. According to the IPCC, damage from the climate crisis is already extensive as global greenhouse gas emissions remain at record levels. Therefore, the world needs immediate reductions in emissions to save mother earth. IPCC estimates that carbon reductions must decline steadily over the next three decades in order to limit global warming to 1.5°C degrees above pre-industrial levels and prevent the worst impacts.
Meanwhile, populations that are least responsible for the climate crisis are already suffering from its impacts and need immediate help from the heavily-polluting countries to adapt and recover from loss and damage. This is an issue of equity and climate justice that requires immediate attention from governments and international financial institutions, climate change advocates argue.
Due to the urgency to act on climate change, the United Nations Secretary-General convened a Climate Ambition Summit at United Nations Headquarters in New York on 20 September 2023. According to a UN statement, the Summit represents a critical political milestone for demonstrating that there is collective global will to accelerate the pace and scale of a just transition. A just transition will create a more equitable renewable-energy based, climate-resilient global economy. Consequently, the Secretary-General has called for assessing the credibility and accountability of 1.5°C-aligned net-zero emissions commitments by non-state entities – such as companies in the mining and extractives, and heavy manufacturing sectors.
Climate change justice
The disturbing reports are pointing to the fact that global efforts in adaptation planning, financing and implementation are not keeping pace with more severe and frequent climate impacts. While climate adaptation expenditure in the developing world could reach US$340billion a year by 2030, adaptation support to date only stands at less than one-tenth of that amount according to UN. Unfortunately, it is the most vulnerable people and communities which are paying the huge price.
Moreover, the sixth assessment report of IPCC reveals that over three billion people are already highly vulnerable to climate change. Most of this population is in sub-Saharan Africa, where persistent droughts have threatened food security and the people are persistently on the verge of starvation. Little wonder that it is in these impoverished countries that the military has intervened, perhaps to reverse the trend that democratic governance has failed to address.
According to UN data, between 2010 and 2020, human mortality from floods, droughts and storms was 15 times higher in highly vulnerable regions such as the Sahel regions of West Africa. Over the last 50 years, nearly 70% of all deaths from climate-related disasters have occurred in the 46 poorest countries. Yet, to date, only half of all countries worldwide lack the capability of educating their citizens about impending weather and climate hazards. In Africa, particularly, six out of every ten people are not covered by an effective early-warning system – or even have an insurance policy covering their lives and property. This dire situation compelled the United Nations Secretary-General, Mr. António Guterres, to advocate for unprecedented international cooperation and collaboration to protect people and communities from the climate emergency’s immediate and ever-growing risks.
Morocco and Libya
In early September, Libya and Morocco were badly hit by what can be described as climate change-related natural disaster. On September 8, 2023, a devastating earthquake struck the regions of High Atlas and Marrakesh in central Morocco. Experts say the earthquake is the strongest that Morocco has seen in over a century, and it led to the loss of over-1,000 people besides the destruction of countless homes and buildings.
Within a four-day interval, on September 12, 2023, another natural disaster struck in Libya – where ‘Storm Daniel’ caused catastrophic flooding. The coastal city of Derna was particularly hard-hit, with a quarter of the city submerged due to two dams bursting because of heavy rains. Reports suggest that over 5,000 people have tragically lost their lives, while thousands more are still unaccounted for. These two separate events can be described as complex emergencies which require international relief-support to help surviving victims recover from the shocks.
Some experts says while the earthquake in Morocco was an unpredictable occurrence, an unprecedented natural disaster such as the flooding can be linked to the climate crisis. In the case of Storm Daniel, which has since been dubbed a ‘medicane’ for its hurricane-like characteristic, several experts have explained that the warmer waters and higher atmospheric temperature of the area are likely to have led to the acceleration and aggravation of the storm, leading to more extreme effects (O’Malley & Webber 2023; Euronews Green 2023). Though ‘medicanes’ of this ferocity can form in the Mediterranean, they are rare occurrences and seldom grow at the speed that Storm Daniel did (Euronews Green 2023).
Wake up call
What happened in Libya should be a wake-up call for the increasing risk of catastrophic floods in a world that is being increasingly affected by climate change, says Jagan Chapagain, Secretary-General International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC). Chapagain was talking in the light of reports suggesting that climate change probably made the disaster in Libya more likely. Furthermore, a recent study by the World Weather Attribution group indicates that human-induced climate change has made heavy rainfall in north-eastern Libya more likely to occur by up to 50 times than a few decades earlier.
The scientists also found there was up to 50 percent more intense rain than there would have been for a comparable rainstorm in a pre-climate change world. The scientists assumed that even in a 1.2°C ‘warmed’ world, the recent rainfall in Libya was extreme. Under normal circumstances, this rainfall pattern should have occurred once every 300-600 years. Even so, the frequency is much higher than would be the case in a world that had not warmed.
The experts further concluded that the flooding in Libya was not solely caused by rainfall, but also poor preparedness, excessive construction in flood-prone regions, and poor management of infrastructure such as roads, drains and dams. Nonetheless, climate change is a significant factor in causing and exacerbating extreme weather events. This should be a wake-up call for the world to fulfil the commitments on reducing emissions, and providing funding to ensure climate adaptation in poor countries across the world.
The International Red Cross Society explains that the devastating disaster shows how climate change- induced extreme weather events are combining with human factors to create even bigger impacts. These impacts are increasing – exposing more people, assets and infrastructure to weather vulnerabilities and flood risks. However, there are practical solutions that can help us prevent these disasters from becoming routine: such as strengthened emergency management, improved impact-based forecasts and early warning systems. Creating resilience for climate change-related disasters should focus on providing infrastructure that is designed to withstand earthquakes and flooding.
In fact, during the era of Muamar Al-Qaddafi this catastrophic flooding in Libya would have been avoided or reduced to the barest minimum. Under him Libya had the best infrastructure in Africa, with overall development matching that of some western countries. Under the visionary leader, Libya became a case study for equitable economic development. Per capita income in the country rose to more than US$11,000 – one of the highest in Africa at the time. Every family in Libya had a monthly allocation of money for their upkeep, besides enjoying free housing and free education.
During his long reign Qaddafi transformed Libya to a modern economy, and was leading the plan to create an African Union that promotes a harmonised economy to make Africa become more competitive. Obviously, this vision threatened western powers – which ganged-up and violently removed the iconic leader from power, while African leaders failed to protest against the invasion of Libya. Today, Libya is a pale shadow of its previous success story. The country is in political, economic and social turmoil, with armed groups ruling over various portions of the country.
Euronews Green. 2023. Climate change and crumbling infrastructure made Libya’s devastating floods worse, scientists say. Retrieved from Euronews.green.
O’Malley, I & Webber, T. 2023. How Climate Change Likely Contributed to Libya’s Devastating Flooding.