By ELIYA AHMAD, age 12
A massive typhoon hit the Philippines on November 8, 2013. As one of the strongest on record, Supertyphoon Haiyan orphaned many children, separated many others from their families, and destroyed villages and countless homes. The water level rose drastically, sweeping away people and buildings alike.
Three days later, at the 19th Annual United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP19), representatives from all over the world gathered in Warsaw, Poland, to discuss climate change and how to prevent it. Naderev “Yeb” Saño, a representative from the Philippines, spoke up, saying that denying the existence of climate change or the connection between climate change and storms like Supertyphoon Haiyan was pointless, since countries all over the world are feeling the effects of melting sea ice and rising sea level.
During the typhoon, there were winds of 195 miles per hour. According to Saño, the storm “was so strong that if there was a Category 6,* it would have fallen squarely in that box.” The casualties so far stand at more than 6,000 people dead, with an additional 1,800 missing or unaccounted for. According to the United Nations, 14 million people were affected (almost twice as many people as live in New York City), including 1.8 million children who were displaced and separated from their families when the storm hit. Towns have been flattened into heaps of rubble, and even now that the storm is over, many of the towns that had been hit the hardest in the typhoon are having trouble getting supplies such as food and water.
At the climate change conference, Saño pledged to fast** until a solution for the changing climate was decided. He did this in solidarity with the people of his country, who are struggling to find enough food to survive, and for his brother, who was busy helping to rescue people in the villages the storm had hit hardest and had not eaten in three days. Immediately, many people joined him on the fast, agreeing that a result needed to come from the talks.
The Philippines is not the only place that is or will soon be feeling the impacts of the changing climate. All over the world, temperatures have risen, leading to an increase in tropical storms and a rising sea level. “The climate crisis is madness… we can stop this madness right here in Warsaw,” Saño said. “We cannot sit and stay helpless staring at this international climate stalemate. It is now time to raise ambition and take action.”
Despite Saño’s passionate words, environmental groups and youth delegates at the conference found the talks to be so unproductive that they walked out of the conference to show their disappointment over the lack of action taken. Anjali Appadurai, a youth delegate who started attending the conferences as a high school student, told Democracy Now!, “We’re not abandoning the U.N., we’re just abandoning this COP, because it’s just gotten so bad.” After 20 years of negotiations, she and fellow activists are ready to see real change.
*Storms are ranked based on intensity, with Category 5 as the most severe.
**Fast: To choose not to eat to show support for a cause.