22 July 2021
The human cost of climate disasters
In the last week we have seen the devastation which extreme weather conditions can cause, right on our doorstep, with flash floods ripping through communities in Northern Europe. Across the Pacific, areas of North America have been recovering from the opposite phenomenon, a heatwave which saw temperatures soar to more than 49 degrees celsius. With homes swept away, roads in ruins and many lives lost, it is hard to not consider the impact climate change is having on our planet.
For the Global North these weather extremes are seeming to finally be a wake-up call, but poorer nations in the Global South have long been experiencing first-hand the brunt of the climate crisis facing our planet, with few resources to recover.
This is the worst I have ever seen since I have started to see these sorts of floods… it is catastrophic, something that you can’t imagine.
The words of Hope for Africa Mission (HfAM) ministry leader Bishop Hendrick as he witnessed the destruction caused by Cyclone Idai in early 2019. Winds of more than 100mph and raging floodwaters swept through Zimbabwe, Malawi and Mozambique claiming the lives of more than 1,000 people and leaving many thousands more displaced.
Being on the ground in Southern Africa, meant that HfAM were able to rapidly respond, providing emergency relief to those worst hit by the cyclone. As they responded they saw the huge challenges which face communities, who are already amongst the poorest in the world, when climate-related disasters strike.
Livelihoods were destroyed as vast swathes of crops were wiped out leaving the majority, who rely on agriculture to survive, destitute with no insurance or state help to fall back on. The spread of disease became a huge risk as people crowded into schools on higher ground and clean water sources were destroyed. With roads wiped out and people already living with limited access to healthcare and education, vital resources struggled to reach those cut off in rural areas. As people resettled in temporary camps, women and children were left vulnerable to abuse and violence.
An increasing climate emergency
Although it is true that natural disasters have occurred throughout time, they are now occurring more frequently and with more ferocity than ever before. They too can occur anywhere across the world, as we have seen from recent weeks, but it is those who are already living in poverty that bear the higher cost. The issues facing those impacted by Cyclone Idai are ones that our ministry partners all across the world are responding to, as they provide relief in times of climate-related crises.
2020 may be the year that we remember as the year of the pandemic but it was also a year of an increasing climate emergency:
global temperatures higher than in a millennium; and the highest concentration of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere for over 3 million years… extreme weather and climate disruption fuelled by anthropogenic climate change, affecting lives, destroying livelihoods and forcing many millions from their homes'  - UN Secretary General
Oxfam reports that in the last 30 years the number of climate-related disasters has tripled. More than 10 million people a year since 2010 have been left displaced as a result of these disasters with the majority living in the poorest parts of the world, yet the poorest half of the world’s population are only responsible for 10% of the world’s carbon emissions compared to the richest 10% producing half of the world’s emissions.
Caring for creation and all God’s people
As we swelter in the heat of a UK heatwave let us take a moment to pray for the communities across the world who are facing the full brunt of climate change with few resources to cope, and ask for God’s wisdom in how we can take action to protect the wonderful creation he has gifted us all with.
Let us also give thanks for the ways our ministry partners are able to care for those suffering the impacts of climate change, and can rapidly respond when disaster strikes.