June 5th marks Environment Day. This year's theme is #BeatPlasticPollution, to raise awareness of the need for action against plastic pollution and accelerate the "transition to a circular economy".
The climate crisis is a humanitarian crisis. The hardest hit are the populations of the Global South and the poorest countries, which have contributed the least to climate change. From extreme weather events to natural disasters leading to forced displacement, humanitarian needs are inextricably linked to the climate crisis.
Although humanitarian needs will not diminish unless the crises that cause them are resolved, technology can offer innovative ways of responding to them more effectively.
How does climate change affect humanitarian situations?
Climate change leads to rising temperatures, with repercussions on soil moisture, sea levels and rainfall. From rising sea levels to droughts and forest fires, more and more people are suffering the consequences of climate change.
Although natural disasters have always existed, climate change is exacerbating certain aspects of these extreme weather events. For example, rising sea levels can have an impact on flooding. Over the past 25 years, TSF has deployed countless times in response to natural disasters, and witnessed the destruction they cause.
Extreme weather events cause economic losses, food and water shortages, destroy homes and towns and force millions of people to move every year. Humanitarian needs increase every year in response to these events. Weather-related disasters have increased over the last 50 years, causing more damage but fewer deaths: "thanks to improved early warnings and disaster management, the number of deaths decreased almost three-fold”.
How can we predict and prepare for extreme weather events? How can we contribute to resilience to climate change? How can technology help?
What can technology do?
Technology to involve those most concerned by climate change
Young people, who will inherit the impacts of climate change, need to be involved in climate resilience planning. Social media can be used to reach them with campaigns that take into account the social dimensions of climate resilience.
Thanks to digital geographic information systems (GIS), indigenous populations can more easily contribute to building climate resilience by providing information about their territories and communities.
Building strategies and monitoring with satellite data
Satellite data can help us to understand our environment and how climate change is affecting it. For example, they can be used to detect the influence of climate change on forest fires. In China, the GRACE (Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment) satellites have contributed to a better understanding of the causes of the increased frequency of forest fires in specific areas, namely extreme weather conditions affecting the storage of water in the air.
Predicting how our environment will evolve in the years to come is a challenge. The evolution of our coasts (land, sea and ecosystems) is based on observations that can be difficult to obtain. But thanks to satellite data and imagery, we can monitor and predict changes, and develop strategies accordingly.
Technology is a key element in monitoring, preparing and developing strategies in response to climate change and its consequences. Through preparedness, we can try to become more resilient and better able to anticipate crises.
How to be more resilient to climate change?
Innovation in technology improves predictions of climate-related crises and makes it possible to act in anticipation. Knowing how and when a crisis will come allows for faster action when disaster strikes.
This is one of the key reasons for our project in South-East Asia and the Caribbean. To react faster and more effectively to natural disasters, anticipatory action such as training of local organizations in telecommunications and monitoring through satellite imagery can make the difference.
“The overall aim of the project is to reduce the impact of disasters on communities by preparing response plans before the emergency strikes.”
Sébastien Gillet, ICT specialist and part of the training team on the project.
Technology offers many opportunities to better withstand climate change and humanitarian crises. However, it cannot replace concrete action to tackle the root causes of these crises, whether climate change or conflict.