Before you read: Images and reportages about the devasting consequences of the Cyclone Idai can be extremely upsetting and heartbreaking and even inspire a sense of desperation. How can we avoid getting overwhelmed by the news and instead effectively contribute to a solution?
One way could be donating to effective organizations operating on the ground at the moment. We’ve collected 4 Kinder-vetted charities you can consider making a contribution to (World Vision UK; UNICEF; Welthungerlife; and Oxfam Novib). Donate through our widget and we'll equally split your donation among these four orgs 👇:
The story: The tropical cyclone rampaging south-eastern Africa has been described as one of the worst disasters ever to strike the southern hemisphere, with up to 2.6m people potentially affected in Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe. The death toll may not be known for months, but it is already likely to have run to hundreds and possibly thousands of people. The brunt of the disaster has been borne by the coastal city of Beira in central Mozambique, 90% of which has been reportedly destroyed.
It is inevitable that people will connect Idai and climate change. It is always tricky to establish a direct causal link, but thanks to the evidence provided by a number of reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), including this most recent one from October 2018, we know that climate change is bound to increase the intensity and frequency of storms like Idai. At the very least, this crisis is a harbinger of what is coming.
Knowing this is a luxury that we must not squander. The IPCC estimates we have 12 years to prevent the Earth’s climate from crossing the 1.5℃ warming threshold, beyond which the effects are likely to become significantly worse. We should be spending this time both trying to minimise the increase in global temperatures and making people more prepared for similar events in future. The West has a duty to shoulder most of the burden here, for reasons I’ll explain in a moment. To do so, it needs to rethink its entire approach to international development.
Over the next few weeks, we may hear that Beira’s geography makes it particularly prone to natural disasters. We may hear that the region lacks an efficient early-warning system to alert its population. We may even hear some victim-blaming rhetoric that local people refused to leave despite being warned. Arguments like these all obscure a much more important explanation for what has happened.
It is not only the intensity of environmental disasters that makes them devastating – poverty also has a huge bearing on how things play out. Houses in poorer areas will often be less stable, storm barriers may be weaker, sanitation is often a problem, emergency services will be poorly resourced – and preventing disease outbreaks may be hindered by the poor state of public health services. The list of disadvantages goes on and on.
Good example are hurricanes Katrina and Sandy in the US. Katrina struck New Orleans and the surrounding region in 2005 while Sandy hit New York and New Jersey in 2012. Sandy hit a far more densely populated area, but the death toll was at least five times lower than Katrina and it only caused about half the damage.
While Sandy was a category three storm to Katrina’s five, this was certainly not the only reason for the disparity. New Orleans, one of the poorest cities in the US, had poorly constructed levees which were easily overcome by the flood. Many people did not have cars, so couldn’t evacuate easily when the authorities told them to.
The earthquakes that struck Haiti and Japan in 2010 and 2016 respectively are another example. Both were of similar magnitude, but between 100,000 and 316,000 died in Haiti while in Japan it was just 42. One reason the Haitian disaster was so much worse was the many thousands of unstable shanty houses in Port-au-Prince.
Inequalities within countries matter as well. The most vulnerable people are usually women, children, the poor, the elderly, ethnic minorities or indigenous people. Hurricane Katrina hit the elderly poor of New Orleans disproportionately hard, for instance, since they found it hardest to escape.
In all this inequality, the world’s wealthiest countries are heavily culpable. It stems from a complex economic system that disadvantages the Global South – not to mention the centuries-long experience of colonialism, the effects of which have hampered human development until this day.
In a world where 26 billionaires own as much wealth as the bottom half of humanity, the prospect of more frequent and intense climate disasters is only bound to exacerbate those inequalities. At the same time, Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe contribute only a small fraction of the emissions that are causing such disasters. The West’s responsibility – along with other big emitters such as China – is therefore also a matter of climate justice.
Part of that responsibility lies in changing the current approach to disaster aid. In major donor countries such as the US and UK, the guiding modus operandi of disaster relief has been reactive as opposed to proactive measures. The UK spent £1.2 billion in 2018/19 on emergency responses such as humanitarian interventions, while disaster prevention and preparedness has received a mere £76m. In the case of Cyclone Idai, the Department for International Development has now earmarked £18m to assist humanitarian relief efforts in Mozambique and Malawi – tripling the original pledge from a couple of days earlier.
To be clear, humanitarian responses are absolutely key, but insufficient on their own. They bandage wounds rather than fix what caused them. Instead, donor countries need to prioritise identifying the most vulnerable people both before and after a disaster, and ensure they receive the required support and are granted the agency to be actively involved in the process.
Besides the high-profile attempts to reduce global emissions, countries such as the UK should be offering support to poorer countries with everything from building flood defences to supporting social services to transferring technology. They should be forgiving national debt, redistributing wealth or at least giving them preferential trade deals to help them adapt to climate change themselves. This requires a rethinking not just of humanitarian aid but of development assistance in general.
Fortunately this is not just blue skies thinking on our parts. The House of Commons International Development Committee is currently reviewing the aid budget and considering an approach built around climate justice. This emerging discipline is gaining traction and credibility around the world and will be the subject of a World Forum taking place in Glasgow in June. Ahead of that, Tahseen Jafry – one of the co-authors of this article – will be making a keynote presentation in New York in April.
In short, it feels like momentum is steadily building. The UK caused a disproportionately large part of climate change. Now it ought to show leadership by pioneering a new approach to development that has inequality at the top of the agenda.
This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. It's written by Michael Mikulewicz, Research Fellow at the Centre for Climate Justice of the Glasgow Caledonian University, and Tahseen Jafry, Professor of Climate Justice at the Glasgow Caledonian University. You can read the original article here.
Credit Header Image: Fayaz King (Twitter)
Disaster relief risks making us complacent about ongoing, everyday disasters such as poverty and disease but it's still crucial.
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Join us for the second of our Kinder Conversations - the Sky has a Limit.
Following our investigation into the Future of Meat in February, we've turned our attention to the sky. We'll be talking about whether air travel can be more sustainable, and how.
We're delighted to be hosting this event in collaboration with our friends at TQ, the Amsterdam tech hub where we're based.
📅 When Monday 17 June 18:30 - 20:30
📭 Where TQ, Singel 542, Amsterdam
🎯 Why should I fly Kinder? To hear about the latest research and technology making air travel more sustainable. To find out what you can do to reduce the impact your flights are having. To share a drink with like-minded travelers, and sample some of our vegan snacks (including beloved Professor Grunschnabel ice cream, as seen at the Future of Meat event)
Here at Kinder, we believe that greener travel is one of the key ways in which we can tackle the climate crisis. Travelling green can mean a lot of things, but right now we’re concerned about the aviation industry.
If aviation were a country, it’d be a top 10 polluter - and C02 emissions from air travel are growing many times faster than any other form. We’re already in a very dangerous position, and although there are many potential solutions, we sometimes feel overwhelmed and uncertain about what to do about it.
That’s where Kinder Conversations comes in.
Kinder Conversations is a series of events which delve into the biggest issues facing the world.
At the Sky has a Limit, we’ll be bringing together representatives from research and technology, the aviation industry and the not-for-profit sector to talk about sustainable air travel. We’ll hear more about the problem, and a lot more about the solutions.
Plus, there’ll be time to get a drink from TQ’s bar (buying a drink helps our friends from TQ support more events like this), try some vegan ice cream, and chat to fellow travellers about the steps you can take to travel greener.
✈️ Are you ready to #flykinder? Then secure your boarding pass here.
I don't have a driving license and when pressed about getting one by friends tired of chauffeuring me around I usually say I will only get one if I can drive something cool, like the Batmobile or a flying car. Unfortunately, I might have to honour that promise as it seems that flying cars are finally taking off (alas, no commercial Batmobiles in sight).
Indeed, several promising startups around the world are working to deliver the "car of the future" over the next few years. Like the Dutch company PAL-V that showed off a limited edition of its flying car at the Geneva Auto Show in Switzerland.
The PAL-V is a hybrid between a car and a helicopter (or more precisely, a gyrocopter), able to reach a top speed of 160 km/h on the tarmac but also get airborne in just 5 minutes, hitting airspeeds of 180 km/h over a range of up to 500 km. But since buying a PAL-V will set you back around € 350,000 I might have to pass on this one. Moreover, flying this beauty requires not just a driving license but also (understandably) a license to fly, and that's just too much for me.
Thankfully, other companies are developing vehicles that need no driver at all. Aerospace manufacturer Bell Helicopter, for example, is working on Nexus, an air taxi capable of taking off and landing in the middle of a city (whereas the PAL-V still needs a runway, albeit short, to get airborne).
Called VTOLs (short for Vertical Take Off and Landing), these aircraft aim to become sort of an Uber of urban air travel, bringing customers to the opposite part of the city or even to a nearby city in a matter of few minutes.
If you're at JFK airport in New York, for example, and have a meeting in Manhattan, instead of embarking on a 1-hour, Cosmopolis-style taxi ride, you could just hail a flying car and be downtown in 5 minutes.
Futuristic as it may sound, concrete plans to make it come true are underway. Earlier this month, German startup Lilium successfully completed the first test of its new five-seater Lilium Jet, an electric vehicle that, according to the company, will have a range of 300 km and a top speed of 300 km/h.
The reason electric flight is such an exciting area of research is not just because flying taxis will allow a handful of high rollers to drastically cut on their commuting time. Electric flying cars might be really good for the environment too.
A recent study published by Nature highlighted that, in some cases, flying cars could eventually be greener than even electric road cars, cutting emissions while reducing traffic on increasingly busy roads.
Moreover, developments in the field of flying cars could also boost the research on electric flight at large, including long haul electric flights, sort of the Holy Grail of aviation. And, as known, the civil aviation industry needs to find effective ways to lower its carbon emissions as soon as possible.
However, as explained by Hugh Hunt in an article on The Conversation that we republished here on Kinder World, "gaps in necessary technology and practical uncertainties beyond the cars’ promising physics mean that they may not arrive in time to be a large-scale solution to the energy crisis and congestion."
Let's get this one thing straight: most people prefer flying to other modes of transport, and we seem to do it more and more often. The airline industry is booming and 4.1 billion passengers have been transported last year. Almost every figure one looks at shows the impressive increase in flights over the last two decades.
Alexandre de Juniac, head of the International Association for Flight Transport proclaims: “In 2000, the average citizen flew just once every 43 months. In 2017, the figure was once every 22 months. Flying has never been more accessible. And this is liberating people to explore more of our planet for work, leisure, and education. Aviation is the business of freedom."
However, this ‘business of freedom’ runs on fossil energy carriers as planes still almost exclusively fly on kerosene. Kerosene is a fuel produced by oil refining and carbon dioxide (CO2) is the major product of burning kerosene. The 2-5% of all global CO2 emissions the aviation industry emits is caused by its fuel consumption (and choice). And unlike other fuels like diesel or gasoline, airlines don't pay taxes on kerosene in most countries — making cheap air travel possible.
In 2018 Europe’s biggest airline Ryanair became number 9 in the list of Europe’s biggest CO2 emitters and still claims to be the ‘greenest and cleanest airline’. Andrew Murphy – the aviation manager at the European Federation for Transport and Environment — argues that Ryanair the new coal when it comes to climate pollution. Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary, on the other hand, dismisses such claims by saying the claims are ‘’complete and utter rubbish’’.
Other airlines, like KLM who partly uses renewable jet-fuel, are acknowledging the problem but they aren't too far behind Ryanair on the list of emitters.
The growth of the industry is not expected to slow down. India and China are the biggest growth markets, the latter alone is building 200 new commercial airports in the next ten years. Moreover, industry forecasts suggest that emissions will rise by 700% until 2050 which amounts to more than 4% of the world’s remaining carbon budget.
If we want to reach the goals of the Paris Agreement, every the average earthling has a quota of two tons of CO2 per annum but just a return trip between New York and Amsterdam generates three tons already.
Compared to other modes of transport planes are the biggest CO2 emitters per travelled kilometre followed by cars, buses and finally trains which are the least polluting. The CO2 emissions, however, are only one half of the medal. The impact of flying on global warming is different than most other transport as it happens in the air high above the ground where the processes that cause or reduce global warming happen. These include CO2 and nitrogen oxide emission but also cloud formation, ozone and soot as well as methane reduction.
The climate impact of the emitted greenhouse gases in the stratosphere are three times higher than on the ground. Flying also causes condensation trails and fog clouds in certain weather conditions. Such clouds can have a warming or a cooling effect on the climate. One way to improve the climate effect of flying would be planning better routes where warming clouds are avoided and the formation of cooling clouds is favoured — our current routes have an overall warming effect.
So, hypothetically, some flights with clever flight-route planning might even reduce global warming. However, as we don't have time to hypothesise, we need to find and urgently implement other ways to bring down the impact of flying, like using better fuels or even better planes.
This article was written by Eric Schuler for Kinder World. Schuler is a PhD candidate at the University of Amsterdam and works on new industrial sustainable chemistries to turn captured CO2 into useful things such as plastics or fuel. He's also a photojournalist with an interest in climate and land-use change.