As Caritas Internationalis and Catholic Relief Services expanded their efforts to respond to the unprecedented flooding throughout Asia following a series of typhoons and accompanying torrential comes news that a 2007 U.S. EPA report, finally released in response to a Freedom of Information Act petition, had acknowledged the looming threat of climate change. The report, suppressed by the Bush administration, issued a call to action to severely curtail U.S. carbon release into the atmosphere lest the nation face catastrophic environmental damage. Needless to say, its directives were ignored by the previous administration.
An update of a 2007 report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change further corroborates the growing threat of rising sea-level to low-lying, coastal regions where many of the world’s poorest people live. The IPCC says that the pace of climate change-related events is quickening even ahead of the 2007 estimates. In a perfect storm of climate effects, more severe weather is projected to drop larger quantities of rainwater on regions already threatened by sea-level increase and coastal erosion. Typically these are communities that draw their cultural and economic sustenance from the sea. According to the IPCC, sea levels may rise by as much as 18 inches in some areas by 2100, and the ocean waters will become warmer, triggering even more violent storms. Coastal nations in the developed world would be wise to be attentive to these reports and make what preparations they can for sea-level increase that may be now inevitable. But poorer nations are going to need more than climate control treaties, they will need financial support to prevent the worst from happening.
Developing countries will need roughly $160 billion annually by 2020 to adapt to climate change and to mitigate its effects, according to CIDSE, an international alliance of Catholic development agencies. Even as we more seriously treat and seek to prevent climate change through new international treaties aimed at controlling climate change gas emissions, the affluent world needs to remember the nations which will be most vulnerable to the changes it may already be too late to head off. They will need shelter from the storm and OECD nations may be the only ones capable of offering it.