Today’s guest blog post was written by David Waskow, Climate Change Program Manager. When Oxfam America staffers join military and intelligence experts to tackle an issue, it’s probably worth noting. Today, that’s what happened when Oxfam and CNA, a large Washington think-tank that tackles military and security issues released a new joint report that studied […]
Today’s guest blog post was written by David Waskow, Climate Change Program Manager.
When Oxfam America staffers join military and intelligence experts to tackle an issue, it’s probably worth noting. Today, that’s what happened when Oxfam and CNA, a large Washington think-tank that tackles military and security issues released a new joint report that studied the impacts of a changing climate on the ability of the US to respond to international disasters and humanitarian crises.
The findings of the report — “An Ounce of Prevention: Preparing for the Impact of a Changing Climate on US Disaster and Humanitarian Response” were discussed today before a panel discussion with distinguished military and agency officials at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington DC.
It’s a set of issues with critical implications from the stand points of both organizations– how will climate change strain our government’s resources, how will it affect our country’s security interests in fragile or strategic states, and will it hamper our ability to save lives?
The reality on the ground is that the number of people affected by climate-related disasters in developing countries around the world – from rapid-onset events such as floods, to ones that occur more slowly such as droughts – is quickly rising. More disasters can lead to greater economic stress and increased migration, which can exacerbate instability, particularly in already fragile states.
All of this will lead to increased demand for disaster response, which the US is not yet prepared for. Putting in place climate preparedness measures – “an ounce of prevention” – should be one of the key elements of an effective government response. Yet, according to the report, just .04% of total global development assistance supported disaster prevention and preparedness between 1999 and 2008.
In a world facing increasing food insecurity and other major poverty challenges, this lack of preventive action is a major gap. And it’s an even more troubling gap given the wide range of effective tools available for building community resilience to climate events in developing countries — from innovative irrigation systems to micro-insurance programs for small-scale farmers.
The report urges that the US government create a clearer, “whole-of-government” structure for dealing with disaster response planning to address the siloing of disaster aid and long-term development assistance, with leadership from civilian agencies that have the greatest expertise on humanitarian and disaster response. And it urges that we put long-term strategies – not just short-term responses – at center stage.
Even though this all sounds like common sense, it’s not being practiced today. But we hope that when Oxfam and CNA come together to deliver recommendations, Congress and the administration take note.
The full PDF of the report is here.