It’s only Ray Suarez’ second night hosting “Inside Story” for Al Jazeera America, but he’s already got the ball rolling on serious coverage of Super Typhoon Haiyan in the Phillippines and its connection to global climate change.
Unlike some news outlets that give the storm significant coverage but ignore increasing evidence that climate change is making the impacts of storm surges worse by raising the underlying sea levels, Suarez kicked off his story coverage by speaking with Lucille L. Sering, the vice chair of the Philippines’ Climate Commission. Sering told Suarez that developed countries with high rates of carbon dioxide emissions should use Haiyan as a red flag to lower their emissions before they, too, experience a similar fate.
“We’ve been telling the rest of the world — we don’t want what’s happening to us to happen to everyone else,” Sering said. “This is your early warning system … we will all eventually be victims of this phenomenon.”
Super Typhoon Haiyan may have hit the Philippines with sustained cyclone winds of 195 mph, according to CNN, which if true would be the strongest on record. The provincal government of Leyte, the worst-hit of the nation’s provinces, has projected fears that at least 10,000 people were killed. At least 1,774 bodies are already officially accounted for, according to Al Jazeera, but the amount of debris has made it extremely difficult to recover bodies.
Despite days of warnings that a super typhoon would hit, Sering said citizens of the Phillippines were “actually in shock” after the storm surge. “We all had a vision of what the Tsunami is,” she said, “but our people … are not really sure what the storm surge actually looks like.”
“Even though we’re not the major [carbon] emitter, not the main culprit of global warming, we are nonetheless pursuing a low emission pathway … even if the rest of the developed countries are unable to do so,” she said.
Suarez then brought on a panel of climate experts — Jean-Pascal Van Ypersele, the vice chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change; Columbia University Earth Institute climate scientist Radley Horton; and Athena Ballesteros the manager of the World Resource Institute — to discuss whether the extreme weather event may make a difference in the outcome of talks at the UN framework convention on climate change, which is happening this month in a football stadium in Warsaw, Poland.
Ypersele said though he’s “a physicist, not a psychologist … any human being must have been moved by what we heard over the last few days.”
“It’s a reminder of the severity of impacts of such weather events and the vulnerability of populations to such events,” he added.
The National Resource Risk Reduction and Management Council has reduced the estimated number of casualties to two to three thousand.