floods

The Australia Institute (TAI) released its latest annual Climate of the Nation 2019 report on September 10. The annual report, first produced by the Climate Institute and for the past two years by TAI, has been tracking attitudes on climate change for more than a decade.

An Imperial Disaster: The Bengal Cyclone of 1876
Benjamin Kingsbury
Hurst, 2018
256 pp, $45

In the early hours of October 31, 1876, there was a terrible convergence of storm, tide and full moon in the Bay of Bengal. Its immediate effect was to send a giant wave, 12 metres high, over the low lying islands and coastal areas.

At least 215,000 people drowned.

It was followed by famine as shocked communities tried to scrounge what food they could. Then at least a further 100,000 died in a cholera epidemic.

As Hurricane Harvey continues to batter Texas and Louisiana in the United States, where nearly 30 people are reported dead, the flooding and landslides that have swept Bangladesh, India and Nepal for weeks have killed more than 1,200 people and displaced millions so far.

Western media, for the most part, has paid little attention to the catastrophic flooding that has swept these South Asian regions.

Now is exactly the time to talk about climate change and all the other systemic injustices — from racial profiling to economic austerity — that turn disasters like Harvey into human catastrophes.

Storms have mercilessly battered Britain, one after the other over the festive period, bringing with them severe and unrelenting floods. The scale of damage and devastation was unprecedented, but it was not unpredictable. We have seen these storms growing with intensity every year.
Malaysia is still reeling from the impact of the worse monsoonal flooding in decades over December and early January. Five people have been killed and the number of people displaced has exceeded the previous record of 100,000 in the 2008 monsoonal season. Ordinary people responded quickly and generously to the floods and civil society groups and individuals pulled together relief campaigns while the government response was slow.
A multi-party conference in Lahore on August 29 has launched a campaign to cancel Pakistan's crippling foreign debt and to organise mass rallies in Lahore, Karachi and Islamabad. The first rally took place on September 2 in Islamabad. The Labour Relief Campaign, in association with Oxfam Pakistan, called the conference to discuss the issue of debt repayment in the post-flood scenario. It was chaired by Aman Kariaper and Ammar Ali Jan. Senator Hasil Bezinjo vowed to take the issue to Pakistan’s Senate and present a resolution to demand that government refuse to pay the foreign debt.
If you are not at least a little bit scared about the Russian heatwave or the huge floods in Pakistan, then you really should be. Extreme and dangerous weather events will be far more common in a warmer world. These devastating fires and floods are a taste of our future climate — unless we can force a political breakthrough on climate change and cut greenhouse gas emissions sharply. The disasters of the past few weeks sound an unmistakable warning: we’ve emitted so many greenhouse gases already that we are losing a safe climate.
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