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Climate change & the floods in Libya

The streets of Derna after the storm. All photos: Abdomenum Aljhemy/CARE

The streets of Derna after the storm. All photos: Abdomenum Aljhemy/CARE

This summer was the hottest ever recorded on earth.

According to NASA, the months of June, July, and August 2023, taken as a whole, were 0.41 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than any other summer since global records began in 1880.

While scientists often urge caution on attributing single weather events to larger climate trends, they agree warmer temperatures mean warmer oceans, and warmer oceans mean tropical storms – cyclones, hurricanes, typhoons, and “medicanes,” previously rare Mediterranean hurricanes – that are more intense, with more rain, stronger winds, and often with longer durations.

“The trend is very clear,” Shuai Wang, co-author of a study published in Nature Communications earlier this month that showed how storms that make landfall around the world are rapidly intensifying at a rate three times greater now than they did 40 years ago.

As global temperatures continue to rise, there will be more — and more intense — Daniels and Idalias, and that means more adverse impacts on women and girls.

Medicane Daniel

Neighborhoods in Derna, Libya were devastated by the flood. Rescue operations are ongoing. All photos: Abdomenum Aljhemy/CARE

“This tragedy is a very real and predictable consequence of what happens when climate change collides and intertwines with other factors,” said Thuy-Binh Nguyen, a Climate Adaptation Specialist at the CARE Climate Justice Center. “The devastation caused by floods following storm Daniel can be seen as the combined effects of climate change, prolonged conflict, and environmental degradation.”

“The victims of these compounding risks were ordinary people, who, despite already dealing with severe stress, were just trying to live their lives.”

Thuy-Binh Nguyen

Time for innovative climate solutions

The crisis is Libya is unfolding as a backdrop to Climate Week, the annual climate event in New York put on in partnership with the United Nations General Assembly.

Because climate change is increasing the frequency and intensity of extreme events like Daniel, CARE and other groups who deliver humanitarian assistance are having to both increase their efforts and adapt through innovation.

Yesterday, in response to the escalating social and economic impacts of the climate crisis and their disproportionate impacts on women and girls, CARE announced the launch of the CARE Climate Solution Accelerator (CCSA).

Michelle Nunn, President and CEO of CARE USA, described the new Accelerator as part of CARE’s rapid and ongoing evolution as fit-for-purpose organization working to address inequality, poverty, and injustice.

“Addressing climate change is a matter of life and death for millions of people today- not in the future,” Nunn said. “We have the capacity to equip those who have been most directly impacted by climate change to withstand its impacts.”

In Libya, CARE is one of the few aid organizations in country and is preparing emergency relief measures in collaboration with local partner organizations.

“Recovering from this disaster will take months, even years,” Lazar said. “People did not just lose one family member, or two. Some families were wiped out entirely. This is why CARE is focusing on psychosocial support for the families and survivors.”

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, North Africa is already facing loss of lives and impacts on human health, reduced economic growth, water shortages, reduced food production, biodiversity loss, and adverse impacts on human settlements and infrastructure, which have all been exacerbated by human induced climate change.

While Africa has been warming faster than the rest of the world, North Africa’s climate has increased at twice the global rate in the past few decades.

“Leaders must recognize that climate change exacerbates existing vulnerabilities,” Thuy-Binh Nguyen said. “There is an urgent need to strengthen early warning systems, invest in disaster risk reduction policies and actions, and fully finance the resilience of vulnerable communities.”

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