What happened over the weekend in the Philippines is nothing more than a foreshadowing of what’s to come. Observers of the trend in climate change say that the typhoon will happen again, more frequently, and with ever increasing damage. The official death toll from typhoon Yolanda is a staggering 10,000, making it one of the deadliest storms on record. With wind gusts of up to 235 miles an hour and sustained winds at up 200 miles an hour, the typhoon is not only a record breaker in its strength and tenacity, it is also a foreshadowing of what is to come.
As we have seen over the past century, climate change has taken its toll on civilizations everywhere. Not only have record breaking storms and environmental catastrophes racked up record numbers of casualties, they have decimated coastal cities around the globe, laying waste to towns and cities everywhere. The upward trend in the frequency and intensity of these storms have governments everywhere scampering to figure out a way to dull the impact of such mega storms.
In the past decade alone a wave of natural disasters have reshaped the global dialogue on climate change, and in terms of what has been causing such a spike in their frequency, as well as how to deal with such environmental calamities after the fact. Unfortunately for the Philippines, they are just the latest in a long string of violent environmental disasters in the first decade of the 21st century.
Lets take a look at some of the worst calamities that have made their mark in the first decade of the 21st century.
Pakistan experienced a magnitude 7.6 earthquake in October of 2005, claiming the lives of over 87,000 people, as well as costing over $3.5 billion dollars. This figure includes 19,000 children, the loss of over 780,000 homes. The quake ultimately affected over 3.5 million people.
Haiti and the Dominican Republic nearly collapsed after a magnitude 7.0 earthquake hit 16 miles west of Haiti’s capital Port-au Prince in 2010. There were a staggering 52 aftershocks, and a death toll of almost 150,000 people. The quake destroyed over 250,000 homes and cost the country billions of dollars in infrastructure damage. In the aftermath, millions were left having to suffer under intolerable conditions, resorting to makeshift shanty towns and squatting. The result was the spread of a cholera epidemic which claimed the lives of an additional 3,000 people.
The east coast of the United States experienced one of the most costliest storms in its history after Hurricane Sandy or “Superstorm Sandy” made landfall in 2012. The category 2 hurricane cost the U.S. over $68 billion and claimed the lives of almost 300 people.
And of course, there was the Fukishima nuclear disaster, which was the result of a massive earthquake followed by a tsunami in 2011. The nuclear fallout is the largest nuclear disaster to happen since Chernobyl in 1986. The earthquake itself was the most powerful quake to ever hit Japan, as well as the fifth most powerful in recorded history. Waves of over 130 feet traveled over 6 miles inland, decimating Japan’s coast. In the end the Japanese National Police Agency reported over 15,800 deaths and 250,000 buildings destroyed. In the aftermath over 4 million homes were left without power and an additional million without running water. The Japanese government to this day is still dealing with the effects of radiation leaks from the Fukishima plant.
The Philippines Typhoon will happen again, and it will happen more frequently, and with more damage. As developers move to the coast to build bustling suburban and urban paradises, they will see their short sighted plans thwarted by mother nature’s wrath. The Philippines typhoon is only an indication of the kind of damage that can be reeked by these mega storms.
If the current trend of environmental calamities in the beginning of the 21st century is any indication, the remainder won’t be any less violent. Until measures can be taken to reduce the impact of these storms on coastal cities, the financial impact will only be greater, and the cost of life even worse. The Philippines Typhoon Yolanda is set to hit Vietnam in the coming days.
By John Amaruso