Monday, January 17, 2011

This isn't about climate change – but it may be the face of the future

Steve Connor in the Independent (UK): Rain in Brazil, rain in Australia and rain in Sri Lanka. Rain is the factor that links all three large-scale disasters unfolding before our eyes in these very different regions of the world.

….Since 1975, disasters of all kinds have claimed the lives of more than 2.2 million people. Storms, floods, droughts and other weather-related phenomena were responsible for two thirds of these deaths, according to the UN's International Strategy for Disaster Reduction, which has warned that climate change is likely to increase the frequency and severity of these events.

…Scientists have emphasised that none of the three extreme weather events occurring now can be linked directly to global warming. Two of them, the floods in Australia and Sri Lanka, may be connected with a naturally occurring climatic phenomenon in the Pacific Ocean, called La Niña, whereas the landslides in Brazil are the result of heavy, localised downpours falling on badly constructed homes built precariously on steep hillsides.

…Urban planning has also played a pivotal role in making Brisbane vulnerable. After 1974, authorities said the newly built Wivenhoue Dam would save Brisbane from severe flooding but what they didn't take into account was that the city and its surroundings would change dramatically over the next 35 years.

Rapid urban development, a growth in the population and the dubious practice of building on flood plains have all raised the flooding risk in areas once considered flood-free. The building of houses, roads, drains and other infrastructure has changed the way water flows through river catchments, said Professor Chris Eves of the Queensland University of Technology….

Aftermath of the flooding in Rio, shot by Valter Campanato/ABr, Wikimedia Commons via Agencia Brasil, under the Creative Commons License Attribution 2.5 Brazil)

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