Intensified by climate change, the 2014-16 El Niño exceeded previous records, unleashing severe and destructive extreme weather in many parts of the world.
National State of Emergency Local/Regional State of Emergency Emergency Response from U.N.
“This El Niño is playing out in uncharted territory. Our planet has altered dramatically because of climate change.”
— Michel Jarraud, Secretary-General of the World Meteorological Organization
Preparation and action is needed now to prevent frightening scenarios of loss and destruction.
One city and five countries have already declared a state of emergency due to the El Niño, while the United Nations has deployed emergency resources to a further 10 countries.
This year’s El Niño is beginning to expose the dangerous extent of the global warming rapidly accumulating due to human greenhouse gas emissions. Since the last record-breaking El Niño of 1997, a staggering 93% of global warming has been absorbed deep into the oceans.
This El Niño event is now reversing that, with masses of heat energy released from the oceans into the atmosphere. This is effectively speeding up global warming by at least a decade. This has meant that we’ve now passed one degree of warming since the 1880s.
Continued climate change is likely to increase the frequency and intensity of El Nino events. To find out more about what an El Niño is, click here.
Frontlines of El Niño
Papua New Guinea
Months of drought, more than one third of the country going hungry
Since July, more than 100,000 children have been turned away from schools as there’s just not enough water or food left to run them anymore. After a period of severe frosts in the highlands that killed-off staple food crops, the intense El Niño-driven drought has prevented new crops from growing. There have been reports of deaths from starvation and disease.
Arianne Kassman, 350 Papua New Guinea Coordinator:
“This crisis shows the importance of addressing the issue of climate change as the survival of our people depends on it. Our people rely on their gardens to survive and now that s being taken away from them. Almost 70% of our people lives in rural areas and rely on subsistence farming to survive.”
Community leader and elders in Ajawa discusion water issues. Photo: Dima CARE
“All we can do is hope”
“I grew up in Kisii County, the western part of Kenya. A region that contributes largely to Kenya’s fruit basket, but we too have noticed the absence of rainfall. In the 1970’s my family built a dam within the land my grandfather owned. Though he has departed, that dam has always been there from since I can remember, but in the last two years weather patterns across the country have demanded that our family not take this reservoir for granted. As we experience the second round of drying up, the future remains uncertain. Will the dam refill with rain water as we approach the New Year? Our neighbourhood glares at the skies as if to question where the clouds went. All we can do is hope as we wait for the effects of El Nino to pass.”
— Unelker Maoga
Ethiopia has plunged into a worsening food crisis as two crop cycles have failed due to the El Niño driven drought gripping the country. The Ethiopian government expects that 10.1 million people will face critical food shortages in the coming year, with 400,000 children at risk of developing acute malnutrition.
“The worst drought in Ethiopia for 50 years is happening right now, with the overall emergency response estimated to cost $1.4 billion,” says John Graham, Save the Children’s country director in Ethiopia.
Chennai floods. Photo: Wikimedia
El Niño & climate change intensified record breaking floods
The devastating and deadly floods that hit Chennai in early December after 5 weeks of intense deluges were made worse by the El Niño and climate change. In one 24 hour period, the most rain in Chennai’s recorded history fell, washing away aeroplanes at the airport, destroying homes and leaving much of the city without power.
Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia
On alert for severe flooding and erosion
It is estimated that at least 1.5 million people are at risk from flooding in Ecuador alone in the coming months. During the 1997-98 El Niño, Ecuador and Peru experienced rainfall at 10 times the normal intensity, which caused severe flooding, mudslides and damage to infrastructure.
What needs to be done?
Get prepared: It saves lives and a lot of money
Analysis by the World Food Programme of their programs in Niger and Sudan found that responding before disasters hit lowers the cost of a future humanitarian response by a half. Many communities will remember the impacts of the 1997/98 El Niño and are already preparing themselves for the coming months. Different parts of the world are affected differently by the El Niño, as this map from USAID shows (the map shows the costs associated with the 1982/83 El Niño).
→ If you are in one of the impacted spots highlighted in the map, reach out to your local authorities, weather bureau or community leaders to find out what the expected local impacts are, and what you can do to get prepared. If they’re not yet thinking about it, you should demand that they get proactive!
Our thanks to Belinda Storey for helping put this map and content together.
Global solidarity and action is critical
As well as preparing ourselves and communities for the El Niño, it’s critical that we keep the momentum growing behind the global climate movement that is fighting to limit global warming to 1.5° C.
Breaking 1.5 degrees would expose the world to increasingly severe and damaging El Niño events. That’s not a future we are prepared to see. You can join us at 350.org — Sign up and we’ll keep you informed about actions, events and online tools to have your voice heard!
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