Monday, March 20, 2017

This Disaster is Called Climate Change

By Paul E. Maquet

Peru is suffering at the moment from heavy rains, floods, and storms that are causing loss of life, as well as personal, material, and economic damages. Piura, Lambayeque and La Libertad are - this week - the regions most affected. At the national level, INDECI reports that this season of rains starting March 6, has caused 56,000 victims, 43 people killed, more than 100,000 homes affected, more than 2,000 kilometers of roads affected or destroyed, as well as about 15,000 Hectares of crops affected or lost.

In light of this disaster, responsibilities lie in lack of planning, lack of execution of prevention strategies, and lack of timely response to the emergency, both by local, regional and national authorities. These responsibilities are being highlighted -correctly- by the media as well as by the opposition, and by the authorities themselves who do not cease to pass the blame between another.

But there is an important element that everyone is ignoring, and it is vital to understand the current magnitude of the phenomenon, as well as the reality we will face each year: these disasters are not a casual or passing event, but are inscribed within the process of climate change which our planet is suffering because of the pollution and contamination produced by human beings.

The figures do not lie. In January, "NASA, NOAA and WMO confirmed that 2016 has been the hottest year since 1880. Last year the global temperature was 1.1 degrees Celsius above the pre-industrial age.  In addition, it was 0.07 degrees warmer than 2015, whose high temperatures were already a cause for worldwide alarm.  Moreover, the recent month of January 2017 is the third warmest in 137 years.”

As predicted in all scientific projections, this global warming is associated with the increased frequency and intensity of extreme weather events. And in Peru we can attest to this: if a few months ago an emergency was declared in several regions due to the drought and "water stress" that was leaving the crops and cities without water, as well as allowing the proliferation of forest fires; today we are living one of the most violent rainy seasons recorded.

These are phenomena associated with "visible" climate change. There are also "invisible" effects, so called because they are slower and less violent processes, but no less harmful. The disappearance of glaciers, the loss of soil fertility, the appearance of new pests that damage agriculture, rising sea levels, among others, are phenomena that we have to face now and they will significantly impact our opportunities for ongoing development.

So it is not just a matter of worrying about the current emergency and the necessary solidarity with our compatriots, much less should the discussion revolve around whether to suspend the Pan-American games. It is to understand that we are immersed in a process of climate change and degradation of the natural environment, a product of human activity, particularly of productive and industrial activities. For this reason, the demands to the authorities must also include planning in the use of the land that takes this phenomenon into high consideration, that prioritizes the mitigation and adaptation to climatic change, that protects our basins and that assumes that the environmental concerns are not secondary, but on the contrary are a key element to ensure future development - that is, sustainable development. 

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