Skip to main content

Philippines delegate refuses to eat until action on climate change 'madness'

By Matt Smith and Susannah Cullinane, CNN
updated 6:23 PM EST, Tue November 12, 2013
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: "How many lives do we want to lose?" hunger-striking official asks
  • NEW: Sano says his brother is safe, but other relatives remain unaccounted for
  • Philippines climate conference delegate fasts to demand action
  • Scientists believe warmer climate will fuel more powerful storms

(CNN) -- With his country grappling with the damage from "hell-storm" Haiyan, a Philippines official launched a hunger strike Tuesday to pressure a U.N. climate change conference for concrete steps to fight global warming.

Naderev Sano, a member of the Philippines Climate Change Commission, said he was fasting "in solidarity with my countrymen who are now struggling for food back home" -- including his own brother, whom Sano said "has been gathering bodies of the dead with his own two hands."

"What my country is going through as a result of this extreme climate event is madness. The climate crisis is madness," he said. "Mr. President, we can stop this madness, right here in Warsaw."

Sano leads the Philippines delegation to the 19th Conference of the Parties in Poland's capital. He got a standing ovation after he spoke, four days after Super Typhoon Haiyan struck his island nation with estimated winds of 315 kph (195 mph). The storm has left nearly 1,800 people at the latest count.

"Despite the massive efforts that my country had exerted in preparing for the onslaught of this storm, it was just a force too powerful, and even as a nation familiar with storms, Haiyan was nothing we have ever experienced before," Sano said. But he said the Philippines refuses to accept that "running away from storms, evacuating our families, suffering the devastation and misery, counting our dead, (will) become a way of life."

Meet the Philippines' climate crusader
Philippines delegate: We can fix climate
Typhoon devastates Philippines
Haiyan's track  Haiyan's track
Haiyan's trackHaiyan's track
PHILIPPINES AID (IN U.S. $)

U.N.: 25 million

U.S.: 20 million

UK: 16.1 million

UAE: 10 million

Australia: 9.5 million

Canada: 4.8 million

European Union: 4 million

Norway: 3.4 million

Denmark: 3.1 million

New Zealand: 1.75 million

Ireland: 1.4 million

Vatican: 150,000

China: 100,000

Source: U.N. OCHA

Sano said he will refrain from eating during the 12-day conference "until a meaningful outcome is in sight." He called for "concrete pledges" to the Green Climate Fund -- a U.N. fund aimed at helping developing nations reduce their climate change emissions and adapt to the impacts of climate change -- and said he will continue to fast "until we see real ambition on climate action in accordance with the principles of the convention."

He told CNN's Connect the World that while the complete picture of climate change is still being studied, the highest increase in measured sea levels over the past seven decades "has been in the waters just east of the Philippines."

"The precautionary principle tells you you shouldn't wait for full scientific certainty before doing something or taking action," he said. "How many lives do we want to lose, not just in the Philippines but in communities that have other climate impacts?"

Read more: Projected Typhoon Haiyan death toll falls, but tensions rise

The idea of long-term climate change driven largely by the use of fossil fuels, which release heat-trapping carbon emissions into the atmosphere, is controversial politically but accepted as fact by most researchers. Scientists say they can't pin any particular storm on the process, but that the warming of the air and oceans "loads the dice" in favor of more extreme weather.

"When it's a very rare event, we have a challenge scientifically in distinguishing between the rare chance event and the possible effects of global warming. So for these individual storms, that's a particular challenge," said Noah Diffenbaugh, a climate scientist at Stanford University in California.

But Diffenbaugh added, "Even though that's challenging science, we do know that global warming is occurring, we do know that human emissions of greenhouse gases are the primary cause of that global warming, and we do know that a number of extreme events have increased in likelihood as a result of that."

James Elsner, a climate and statistics expert at Florida State University, said that doesn't necessarily mean more hurricanes or typhoons.

"We could see fewer storms, but the ones that do form could be stronger," Elsner said. That appears to be the trend over the past 30 years, he said.

An October study in the scientific journal Nature noted that more than 5 billion people live in areas that would be affected by climate change by 2050, and the countries that will first see its effects are the ones least capable of responding. And a June report by the World Bank noted that the Philippines is already seeing the effects of a warming climate, ranking 16 of its provinces among the most vulnerable regions in southeast Asia.

Watch the opening session of the 19th COP

The Philippines has launched efforts to better prepare for the impact of climate change, President Benigno Aquino III told CNN's Christiane Amanpour on Tuesday. But he said addressing the issue is a global problem.

"We all live on one planet," Aquino said. "Either we come up with a solution that everybody adheres to and cooperates with, or let us be prepared to meet disasters."

On the table in Warsaw is the issue of compensating countries that suffer from the effects of climate change and can't afford to adapt on their own.

"The poorest people of the world are at greater risk because of our vulnerability and decades of maldevelopment, which I also must assert is connected to the kind of pursuit of economic growth that has led to an altered climate system," Sano said.

In his remarks to the conference, Sano challenged climate change skeptics to "get off their ivory towers and away from the comfort of their armchairs" to see the communities battling flooding, hurricanes and fires. "And if that is not enough, they may want to see what has happened to Philippines now," he said.

This year's Warsaw conference brings together countries that have signed onto the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change. The annual meetings review the parties' progress in limiting global temperature increases.

Sano said that at the last conference, held in Qatar less than a year ago, he appealed to the world to open its eyes as the Philippines had confronted another catastrophic storm -- Typhoon Bopha, then the costliest in its history.

Storm survivors desperate for aid
Damaged roads, airports slow storm relief

Read more: December 2012: Bopha death toll rises

"Less than a year hence, we cannot imagine that a disaster much bigger would come. With an apparent cruel twist of fate, my country is being tested by this hell-storm called Super Typhoon Haiyan," he said.

He said he spoke on behalf of his delegation as well as "the countless people who will no longer be able to speak for themselves after perishing from the storm."

Sano's protest prompted Twitter users to begin using the hashtag #fastfortheclimate in support.

The Climate Action Network -- a body of 850 nongovernmental organizations -- later announced that members of "civil society" were joining Sano in fasting, in a move it said is "unprecedented within the history of the climate movement."

Climate Action Network spokeswoman Ria Voorhaar said the protest is spreading "far and wide," with at least 100 people in Warsaw for the conference also fasting.

"A lot of climate-focused youth groups have jumped on it immediately to show solidarity," she said.

Voorhaar said the hunger strikers want the Warsaw conference to take "concrete steps" toward reducing carbon emissions before 2020, enacting an international mechanism for damages and financing efforts to adapt to a warming world.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
Typhoon Haiyan
updated 8:12 PM EST, Tue November 19, 2013
A dozen body bags line the street in Tacloban -- one of the towns hardest hit by Super Typhoon Haiyan -- as locals walk through the destruction of what used to be their homes.
updated 3:07 PM EST, Tue November 19, 2013
Cadaver dog teams are on the ground in the Philippines, helping to locate victims still buried in the rubble.
updated 5:02 AM EST, Tue November 19, 2013
CNN's Airmie Jarin-Bennett, an expat Filipino, returned to her native land after Typhoon Haiyan. Nothing prepared her for what she found there.
updated 11:27 PM EST, Mon November 18, 2013
As thousands of traumatized typhoon survivors struggled to escape the stricken city of Tacloban, Gina Ladrera was desperate to get back in.
updated 8:49 AM EST, Mon November 18, 2013
Karl Penhaul reports from the middle of the Tacloban devastation using a drone camera to get a bird's eye view.
updated 12:37 PM EST, Mon November 18, 2013
The USS George Washington is expected to leave the Philippines once two amphibious ships arrive there Wednesday, officials say.
updated 8:00 AM EST, Mon November 18, 2013
Australian Jason Day was out on the course at Royal Melbourne on Monday.
The golf community is rallying around Jason Day after it emerged the Australian lost eight members of his family during the devastation wreaked by Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines.
updated 4:41 PM EST, Mon November 18, 2013
The aftermath of Haiyan and the need for aid has celebrities working phones and taking donations. Max Foster reports.
updated 11:26 PM EST, Mon November 18, 2013
As an expression of hard power, they don't come bigger or more fearsome than the USS George Washington.
updated 3:21 AM EST, Mon November 18, 2013
The tiny, baby girl barely moves as she lies wrapped in a bundle of yellow plastic and green cloth on a peeling brown mattress made for a child far larger than she.
updated 9:04 PM EST, Mon November 18, 2013
The USS George Washington is on the front lines of the aid mission in the Philippines. CNN's Anna Coren reports.
updated 1:12 AM EST, Mon November 18, 2013
The day after the typhoon, Father Edwin Bacaltos stepped out of the compound of the Church of Our Mother of Perpetual Help in central Tacloban and began his work.
updated 12:33 AM EST, Fri November 15, 2013
Explore stories from typhoon survivors, relief workers, and officials from eight regions across the Philippines.
updated 6:47 PM EST, Sun November 17, 2013
A distraught mother who lost her young sons in the tidal surge of Super Typhoon Haiyan feels her life is over.
updated 2:45 PM EST, Sun November 17, 2013
This video shows how strong the storm surge was during Super Typhoon Haiyan.
updated 9:02 AM EST, Sun November 17, 2013
CNN's Anna Coren reports from Tacloban's airport as Typhoon Haiyan survivors wait to evacuate.
updated 9:21 AM EST, Fri November 15, 2013
The Philippine govt. is defending its efforts against accusations people there are not getting desperately needed help.
updated 2:21 PM EST, Fri November 22, 2013
How charities and nongovernmental organizations from around the world are responding to the disaster, and how you can help them make a difference.
updated 6:54 PM EST, Wed November 27, 2013
The storm affected 4.3 million people in 36 provinces and displaced more than 340,000.
updated 6:33 PM EST, Wed November 27, 2013
Typhoon Haiyan, one of the strongest storms in recorded history, left thousands of victims in its wake.
updated 6:24 PM EST, Wed November 27, 2013
Troops and aid organizations help Filipinos struggling to survive the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan, one of the strongest storms in recorded history.
updated 6:59 PM EST, Mon November 11, 2013
CNN reporters capture sounds and images of Typhoon Haiyan's devastating trek through Tacloban, Philippines.
updated 7:40 AM EST, Mon November 11, 2013
'I was gob-smacked as we made our final approach into the ruins of the airport in Tacloban,' says CNN's Ivan Watson.
updated 9:58 AM EST, Sat December 7, 2013
Flattened forests and flooded villages in the Philippines seen from the air.
ADVERTISEMENT