During the two weeks of the international climate negotiations in Durban, South Africa, millions of people have been affected by extreme weather disasters. Our poisoned climate is fueling more extreme and dangerous weather, as the super-heated atmosphere brings heavier rains, harder droughts, and fiercer storms. These eight climate disasters that took place while the world’s governments debate whether to address climate pollution have killed dozens of people, displaced tens of thousands of people, and disrupted the lives of millions, and yet are far from the most damaging of 2011:
8. Canada Weather Bomb
On December 8: Hurricane-force winds in a fast-moving “weather bomb” system, including 92 mph gusts, knocked out power for 68,000 people in Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island. Heavy snowfall blanketed north New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, forcing schools to close.
7. Scotland Weather Bomb
December 8: Severe winds of up to 165 mph from another weather bomb battered Scotland and northern England, forcing hundreds of schools to close, destroying a giant wind turbine, and leaving more than 56,000 people without power. “The storm’s winds were so strong as its pressure dropped by 44mb, almost double the qualifying amount for a weather bomb, in the 24 hours to 6am this morning. The winds today were stronger than the 80mph gusts seen when Hurricane Katia hit in September.”
6. Los Angeles Santa Ana Windstorm
November 30: A powerful, late-season Santa Ana windstorm with gale-force gusts “left much of the Los Angeles area strewn with toppled trees and downed power lines on Thursday, slowing rush-hour traffic,” canceling hundreds of flights, and knocking out electricity to over 430,000 residents. “Public schools in Pasadena and 11 other districts in San Gabriel Valley, northeast of Los Angeles, were closed for the day.” Thousands are still without power.
5. Colombia Landslide Kills Family
December 5: “Heavy rains set off a landslide that swept over a home in central Colombia, flattening it and killing seven members of the same family.” “Five women and two young girls died in the disaster, which was caused by heavy rains in the Herveo municipality. The husband of one of the women survived.”
4. Killer Kenya Floods
December 2: “Three children were killed in a landslide as the rains drenching the country continue to wreak havoc. Thousands more have been forced to flee flooded homes.” A total of 14 people have been killed as bridges and roads have been washed away in “some of the heaviest rainfall it has seen in 50 years.” Meanwhile, crippling drought continues in northern Kenya.
3. Record Colombia Floods Cause Bus-Burying Mudslide
On December 8, a Columbia mudslide swallowed a bus, killing six. “One of the victims managed to call for help by cellphone and told relatives she was trapped before she died, said Cesar Uruena, rescue director for the Colombian Red Cross. The five other victims of the accident Wednesday night included a police officer and the bus driver and his young son, Uruena said.” Heavy rains flooded about 3,500 homes south of Bogota, with waters up to 5 feet deep in places. “Up to 10,000 people have been affected by the floods and the cresting of Bogota’s river.” Columbia’s unrelenting rains have caused at least 127 deaths since September.
2. Indonesia Landslide Kills 35
November 30: “Heavy rains triggered the landslide on the island of Nias, burying at least 37 houses.” Thirty-five people were killed. “Heavy rains the past three days had caused the hill to crumble. We are now still trying to pull out trapped victims from the landslide,” district disaster management agency official Robertna Mendeva told AFP on December 1. “It’s difficult as it is still raining very heavily now.”
1. Durban’s Killer Climate-Talk Floods
November 28: Ten people along South Africa’s east coast were killed, 700 houses destroyed, and thousands left homeless following torrential rains that struck the city hosting the international climate talks. The destruction was worst in the shack towns that surround Durban, highlighting the vulnerability of the poor to climate disasters.
This year’s climate devastation has shattered records. There have been 14 billion-dollar climate disasters in the United States alone, causing damages cost at least $53 billion. The floods in Thailand were that nation’s worst “Weather-related catastrophes in Asia have more than tripled over the last 30 years,” Munich Re reports. “In China alone, weather-related disasters have more than quadrupled since 1980.”
Despite the exponentially growing damages fueled by exponentially growing carbon pollution, the world’s top polluters — China and the United States — have insisted that new steps to cut carbon won’t happen before 2020.