This blog is intended to go along with Population: An Introduction to Concepts and Issues, by John R. Weeks, published by Cengage Learning. The latest edition is the 13th (it will be out in January 2020), but this blog is meant to complement any edition of the book by showing the way in which demographic issues are regularly in the news.

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Monday, November 11, 2013

Climate Change and the Typhoon in the Philippines

As aid begins to flow into the Philippines, the huge typhoon that caused the damage is being put into perspective. Over just the past two decades, we have had a big increase in the size and severity of climate-related disasters, as noted in today's New York Times:
The world has already seen a sharp increase in such “natural” disasters – from about 100 per year in the early 1960’s to as many as 500 per year by the early 2000’s, said Daniel Sarewitz, a professor of science and society at Arizona State University.
But it is not that earthquakes and tsunamis and other such calamities have become stronger or more frequent. What has changed is where people live and how they live there, say many experts who study the physics of such events or the human responses to their aftermath.
So, from this perspective, the problem is largely a matter of population growth and distribution. But along with population growth has come an ever-increasing burden on the environment, bringing about changes in the climate. The Guardian notes that:
The appearance that these storms are getting bigger and more damaging reflects rapidly deteriorating climatic trends. The five most devastating typhoons ever recorded in the Philippines have occurred since 1990, affecting 23 million people. Four of the costliest typhoons anywhere occurred in the same period, according to Oxfam.
The inter-governmental panel on climate change says mean temperatures in the Philippines are rising by 0.14C a decade. Scientists are also registering steadily rising sea levels around the Philippines, and a falling water table. All of this appears to increase the likelihood and incidence of extreme weather events, analysts say.
And Chris Hayes on MSNBC had a segment today in which a guest tied the two together--demographic trends and climate change are almost certainly jointly behind the rising power and devastation of these storms.

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