Climate experts meet to discuss El Niño

Publié: 11 juillet 2002 0:00 CET

El Niño and other climate phenomena are wreaking having with weather patterns around the world. Areas prone to drought are experiencing flooding and entire island states risk being submerged by rising sea levels.

The first International Conference on Climate Change and Disaster Preparedness ended last week. The main objective of the conference, hosted by the Netherlands Red Cross in the Hague, was to provide a launch pad for the new Red Cross and Red Crescent Centre on Climate Change.

Senior members of the Dutch government and climate change experts addressed the conference. Senior scientists from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPPC) exchanged information and experiences with disaster management experts from the Red Cross and Red Crescent. Underlying much of the discussion were the links between climate change and evolving disaster risks that people around the world are facing.

The centre will translate expertise on climate change into practical information for Red Cross and Red Crescent work on the ground. "By facilitating an exchange of ideas between the worlds of meteorological science and emergency relief," says Eva von Oelreich, Federation head of disaster preparedness, "the centre hopes to put the impact of climate change and the resulting natural disasters on the agenda of policy-makers and organizations in the field."

In addition to the establishment of the climate centre, the Netherlands Red Cross will assess the needs and vulnerabilities of five countries to climate change so that the Red Cross and Red Crescent in those countries can take appropriate disaster preparedness measures. Information provided by the centre will also strengthen the capacity of the Red Cross and Red Crescent to advocate on national policies on climate change.

All of these initiatives dovetail with findings of the Federation's 2002 World Disasters Report. The report, launched last month around the world, concluded that more work must be done to prepare for climate changes taking place now but that will increasingly affect populations in the future. The best example is that of the sinking state. Many small island states are already loosing land to rising sea levels, experience increasing salination of their crops and face the spectre of tidal floods with increasing frequency.

El Niño and other climate phenomena are often held responsible for extreme weather conditions such as radical changes in the patterns of drought and rainfall. Ongoing climate work will help track these changes and apply them to Red Cross and Red Crescent work in the field, to protect people's lives and livelihoods.

Related Links:

World Disasters Report 2002
27 June 2002 - New climate centre gives edge in disaster preparedness