The Growing Unpredictability Of Climate Disasters - Implications For Effective Responses In An Unequal World

Monday, July 14, 2014: 4:00 PM
Room: Booth 65
Distributed Paper
Constance LEVER-TRACY , Sociology, University of South Australia, Adelaide, Australia
Locally unprecedented and unpredicted natural disasters are already becoming manifest, and will increase in frequency and intensity, around the globe, as climate change advances.

Poorer countries, with the least resources with which to respond, are often the most exposed to droughts, floods, storms, wild fires or rising seas, but there is no universal correlation between inequality and such vulnerability, which can strike anywhere, as hurricane Sandy and the flooding of the Japanese nuclear plant have demonstrated. Accelerating climate change, shifting weather systems and poorly understood tipping points undermine the predictability needed for preparedness by even the wealthy, and few nations have the resources or experience to respond quickly without help or advice.

Transnational assistance can be equally inadequate or inappropriate as illustrated by the introduction of disease into Haiti by UN forces or by the lack of preparedness for radiation effects on US personnel assisting at Fukushima.

The mechanisms for rapid trans-national or local to local assistance are as yet undeveloped and Naomi Klein and others have demonstrated the dangers of external aid, when it ignores local knowledge, brings in highly paid expatriates and foreign profit making companies that undermine or displace local activities.

On the other hand there has been too little attention to the potential in empowering and channelling aid to local bodies, and facilitating direct communication between localities around the world which have had similar experiences. Monalisa Chatterjee’s study of the Moombai floods, illustrates the potential effectiveness of local networks, in contrast with the disastrous and damaging imposed responses to Katrina in New Orleans.