Following the devastation wrought by Typhoon Haiyan—which is arguably the strongest typhoon to ever make landfall—Filipino delegate, Naderev ‘Yeb’ Saño, has vowed to go on a fast at the UN Climate Summit that opened today in Warsaw, Poland. Saño made the vow during a powerful speech in which he said he would fast, “until we stop this madness.”
“In solidarity with my countrymen who are struggling to find food back home…I will now commence a voluntary fasting for the climate,” Saño said. “This means I will voluntarily refrain from eating food during this COP [Conference of the Parties] until a meaningful outcome is in sight.”
Typhoon Haiyan, which may have left more than 10,000 dead, making it the worst disaster in the history of the Philippines, struck over the weekend with winds reaching approximately 314 kilometers per hour (195 miles/hour).
Scientists say that climate change is increasing the intensity of typhoons, which is what hurricanes are called in the Western Pacific. Tropical storms draw their power from warm surface seas. As temperatures rise due to anthropogenic global warming, so does the strength of typhoons, including stronger winds and more precipitation. In addition, rising sea levels worldwide lead to higher storm surges, increasing the likelihood of casualties and damage.
Typhoon Haiyan as it swept toward the Philippines. Photo courtesy of NASA.
However, the science is less clear about whether or not climate change will increase the number of typhoons. The general consensus is that the number of tropical storms will either decrease or stay the same (although some studies argue the number may yet rise), but they will be much fiercer when they arrive.
Saño told delegates that he was still waiting to hear from some relatives and didn’t know if they had survived. He also told how his brother had been collecting the dead “with his own two hands.”
Known as the 19th annual Conference of the Parties (COP) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the UN Climate Summit in Warsaw is not expected to break new ground, but instead make progress on paving the way for the 2015 meeting in Paris. That is when nations are expected to finalize a new climate agreement, although it won’t come into force until 2020. The annual climate summits have long been criticized for moving too slowly and lacking the ambition necessary to tackle the global climate crisis.
“What my country is going through as a result of this extreme climate event is madness, the climate crisis is madness,” Saño said. “We can stop this madness right here in Warsaw.”
Saño’s clarion call echoes a similar speech he made last year after Typhoon Bopha swept through the Philippines again during the Climate Summit, this one in Doha, Qatar.
“We have never had a typhoon like Bopha, which has wreaked havoc in a part of the country that has never seen a storm like this in half a century. And heartbreaking tragedies like this is not unique to the Philippines, because the whole world, especially developing countries struggling to address poverty and achieve social and human development, confront these same realities,” Saño said last year. “I appeal to the whole world. I appeal to leaders from all over the world, to open our eyes to the stark reality that we face. I appeal to ministers. The outcome of our work is not about what our political masters want. It is about what is demanded of us by 7 billion people. I appeal to all, please, no more delays, no more excuses.”
Typhoon Bopha killed around 1,000 people; it’s believed Haiyan may have left ten times as many dead—or more.
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