Climate Change, Population and Poverty – A Reflection on Super Typhoon Haiyan

The Philippines has once again suffered tragic loss. Super typhoon Haiyan has caused massive damage and loss of life to a nation that seems all too often in the firing line of such natural disasters. This tragedy comes less than a month after a 7.2 magnitude earthquake struck the island of Bohol in the Phillipines causing extensive damage and the loss of some 100 lives.

Events such as this extreme storm, are seen as symptoms of climate change. To those who bear the impact of such events, these symptoms are all too severe and demand that the cause must be treated. The Phillipines government has certainly connected the cause and effect of such events and is urging other governments to take urgent action.

While we can be quite confident that such intense storms are a consequence of climate change we can be equally confident that another challenge facing the Phillipines, and many other nations, only serves to amplify such events. That challenge being population growth. The Phillipines is one of the more densely populated nations in the world, with close to 100 million people living in an area less than half the size of New South Wales (with a population of 7.2 million), and it has a high rate of population growth. The population of the Phillipines is projected to almost double by 2050 and quadruple to over 400 million by 2100. No matter where typhoon Haiyan hit the impact to both people and property would have been immense, and if population growth continues apace, future events do not bode well. Clearly poverty also played a role in this tragedy, as many of those who suffered loss live in low quality housing or on low lying marginal land.

Action must be taken on the climate change front, however, without addressing population and poverty such natural disasters will continue to take their toll on the Phillipines. Earlier this year, the Phillipines government passed a law widening the availability of family planning to its people, despite considerable opposition. Such laws which empower women will have economic benefits and help reduce poverty.

To donate to the typhoon Haiyan relief effort, Oxfam is a good charity to work through.

To donate to help address the need for family planning in the Phillipines, Marie Stopes is a good place to start.

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