As the world continues to warm the kind of devastation that we saw recently in Vanuatu will become more frequent. Half of the quarter million people that live on the 80 islands that make up the South Pacific state have been left homeless. The Category 5 cyclone known as Pam brandished winds of 185 mph flattening buildings and washing away roads and bridges. So far 16 people are known to have been killed by this extreme weather event. The absence of clean water, sanitation and food could extract a far more deadly toll.
According to Vanuatu’s president, Baldwin Lonsdale, climate change has contributed to “the level of sea rise … the cyclone season, the warm, the rain, all this is affected”.
The events in Vanuatu are part of increasingly common extreme weather in a warming world. We have seen a number of extreme weather events including typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines. While those in coastal communities in the developing world are most vulnerable as illustrated by Superstorm Sandy, the rest are not immune.
Climate models predict that global warming will accelerate both the speed of winds and the amount of rainfall associated with violent storms. When combined with sea levels rises and storm surges, coastal flooding is expected to get far worse.
Vanuatu serves as yet another global warning as we are all subject to the dangers associated with climate change.