What's in the News on Environmental Security?
Cyclone Idai Highlights Climate Change Vulnerability
Cyclone Idai caused disastrous levels of flooding across Southern Africa as it made landfall on March 14 in Mozambique, resulting in a humanitarian crisis which continues to worsen weeks later. Over two million people have been affected across Mozambique, Malawi, and Zimbabwe. Hundreds are dead or missing, hundreds of thousands have been displaced, and lingering floodwaters have increased a risk of waterborne diseases such as cholera and typhoid. The flooding has also resulted in widespread losses of the region’s primary maize crop, raising fears of an immediate food shortage crisis and long term economic tolls to farming communities as they struggle to recover from the loss of this year’s April harvest. The storm has also served as a reminder of the acute vulnerability to natural disasters and climate change’s effects around the world. In the devastated port of Beira, Mozambique—a major exit point for much of the region’s exports— the cyclone completely overcame the less than 10-year-old drainage infrastructure, which was built to address normal flooding levels experienced by the low-lying city. The degree of flooding also overwhelmed recovery efforts, creating difficulties in reaching flooded and cut-off rural communities and highlighting the capacity gaps present in the region’s natural disaster resilience. Climate change’s effects, such as more powerful storm seasons, are expected to disproportionately affect the world’s developing nations, which have fewer resources to address them. While experts have cautioned it is too early to definitely conclude a link between climate change and Idai, the storm has nevertheless demonstrated a need to improve and prepare national capacities to strengthen natural disaster resiliency.
Record 2018 CO2 Emissions Includes Increased Input from Coal
A new study by the International Energy Agency (IEA) found global CO2 emissions reached a record high in 2018. With strong economic growth around the world, coal and gas made up 70% of the increased energy demand last year. Emissions from coal were at record high levels, accounting for up to 30% of total global CO2 emissions in 2018— an increase of 2.9% from 2017 levels. While the decline of coal use has been a long term trend in the United States, it still remains a popular means of energy production in growing Asian economies, particularly in China. The IEA report determined that recently built Asian coal plants were major contributors to 2018’s record coal emissions. If emissions reduction goals are to limit global warming, then high emitting nations need to prioritize limiting greenhouse gases and get serious about alternative energy sources.
Air Force Requests Funds to Repair Natural Disaster Damage
In March, the Air Force submitted a request to Congress for $4.9 billion in supplemental funds to repair bases damaged by recent natural disasters. The majority of the fund package would go to Nebraska’s Ouffut Air Base, which was inundated in last month’s historic Midwest floods, and Florida’s Tyndall Air Base, which suffered extensive damage from Hurricane Michael in 2018. Earlier this year, the Pentagon highlighted extreme weather events and climate change as potential threats both to national security, and to the mission readiness of its overseas bases. The damage seen at both Air Force bases demonstrates the strain that environmental disasters can place on military operations—as without the additional funds the Air Force warned it would be forced to cut back on base operations, training, and construction projects nationwide.