The common refrain in Florida seems to be one of living there for decades and never seeing anything like it. Hurricane Ian hit the southwest of Florida with sustained winds of 150 mph. Almost a category 5, this category 4 storm has reduced to rubble the exposed west coast town of Fort Myers.
Halfway across the world in Venice, Italy, a flood surge crested at over six feet on July 25 this summer. It submerged 85 percent of the city. The historic St. Mark’s square being one of the lowest areas in the city has been particularly vulnerable.
And Pakistan where a third of the country has been inundated, flood waters have been now receding. It takes a while. In the hard hit southern province of Sindh, water levels are down by a third. It means if the water was chest high in some places and knee high in most, then to the eye, there is still water everywhere.
The neighboring province of Balochistan is faring better and the OCHA, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, has issued a report stating that most districts of Balochistan now have normal weather with lower temperatures and that water had receded or was receding in most areas. It still leaves around 6 million people facing a crisis with a shortage of food or water. The figure could grow another million by December as food stocks run out. The loss of life is already orders of magnitude greater than Florida.
The government and NGOs are providing help as best they can. Cash aid plus food and water supplies and tents while they wait for waters to recede completely. Clearly a colossal task lies ahead.
Further west, in the Horn of Africa, Somalia is enduring the consequences of a severe drought. Some 8 million people are facing extreme hunger and 213,000 are at risk of dying according to the UN. After four failed rainy seasons, people have begun to leave home villages and migrate to urban areas to look for work to feed their families. All this and an ongoing civil war to complicate matters.
Al Shabab is fighting the government and controls large parts of the south; it is also considered a terrorist organization by the US government. Thus charities trying to distribute aid have to ensure it does not fall into al-Shabab hands. As a reminder, a famine in al-Shabab territory eleven years ago killed 260,000, according to Kate Foster the British ambassador there.
This time two aid organizations, which talked to the BBC, report that while they have access to government controlled areas, they are unable to aid the 900,000 people (UN estimates) in areas under al-Shabab control.
Given their simple lives, the people of Somalia or the people of Pakistan are minimal contributors to global warming but are among the worst sufferers of the consequences.
Moreover, scientists believe that the increased frequency of extreme weather events like drought or very heavy rains are a result of global warming. Something to think about for the more fortunate among the world’s peoples.