By the Blouin News Science & Health staff

Looking at climate change after Haiyan

by in Environment.

Environmental activists demand more action to battle climate change during COP19 in Warsaw November 16, 2013. REUTERS/Kacper Pempel

Environmental activists rally during COP19 in Warsaw November 16, 2013. REUTERS/Kacper Pempel

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon’s remarks during the summit for climate talks in Warsaw, Poland reflect a reality for many people in natural disaster-struck zones this year, although most of them will likely never hear them. He stated that humans are feeling the “wrath of a warming planet” as a result of our abuse and mistreatment of Earth’s resources. Certainly no other spot on Earth is currently experiencing more of this wrath than the Philippines as the destruction left by Typhoon Haiyan is still being measured, the death toll from which has hit 5,000 at the time of this writing.

It’s old news that humanity’s environmental disregard has weakened the ozone layer, spawning melting polar ice caps, tidal flooding, irreversible temperature changes per climate, thus affecting all flora and fauna — usually for the worse. But Typhoon Haiyan’s assault on the Philippines’ coastline has reinforced the issues at hand for environmental policy makers in Warsaw who are tasked with drafting an agreement that would call upon the international community to collectively reduce greenhouse gas emissions — ideally full steam ahead in 2020.

But is the severity of climate change wreaking havoc on various regions via natural disaster — Typhoon Haiyan as one example — just a perception? Or has the global environment actually gotten so bad that humans are now experiencing the tangible reality of the effects of their abuse?

While science is unable to say for sure, it is undeniable that the last few months of 2013 have hosted a number of condensed, extreme natural events that have resulted in the deaths of many in various human populations around the world: July’s monsoon flooding in Northern India; the severe rainfall shortage in Australia leading to droughts in the months of October and November; and unusual hurricane-force winds battering Northern Europe during the Atlantic Ocean’s hurricane season.

What science does know is that nature is cyclical, and some scientists are worried about the massive release of carbon into the atmosphere over the Philippines as the hundreds of miles of downed trees break down and decompose.

The Warsaw summit has several hurdles to surpass to draft a global agreement to stem the tide of carbon emissions; so far, much of the focus of has been on the world usage of coal and its destructive effects on the atmosphere. But the simple inclusion of global voices seems to be a more basic obstacle as of November 20, when 132 countries walked out of the talks in the face of refusal to discuss compensation until after 2015, according to reports. In another kind of cycle, these countries that most bear the brunt of natural disasters as members of the U.N.’s Least Developed Countries group are the least able to contribute financially to the rehabilitation of the planet, and will likely continue to experience the tragic yet inevitable impact of climate change.