climate change

The hazards of cyclone season

The weather is different in Madagascar. It’s dry in the dry seasons and it rained every day in the wet season, and this was a defining cycle in my childhood. There was also a cyclone season. We didn’t get the worst of this, being well inland. But it remained an annual recurring threat, and there is nothing comparable to this in my years of living in Britain.

Cyclones in Madagascar were a wild card. Sometimes they took out a bridge, cutting off entire towns and throwing travel into chaos. Sometimes the port was damaged, compromising imports and exports. The railway line to the port was a regular casualty. With one refinery in the country, cyclone damage could lead to fuel shortages and months of disruption.

This would be difficult enough in a well resourced developed country, with well funded relief programmes, insurance, and back-up infrastructure. You can imagine the effects in one of the world’s poorest countries.

Here’s a map of every cyclone path for the fifty years from 1969 to 2009. I’ve marked Madagascar, because otherwise it would be invisible.

The weather is different in Madagascar. The patterns I knew as a child have changed. Climate change has made cyclones more intense and more damaging. It has also disrupted the rainy season, pushing towards the extremes and making both floods and drought more likely.

Madagascar has contributed almost nothing to global carbon totals. Luton Airport, a mile down the road, would single-handedly match about half of Madagascar’s annual footprint. This is the injustice of climate change, and why I write.

Parts of Madagascar are now in their third year of drought, with levels of hunger reaching a crisis point. This comes on top of Covid-19 and the recession that it has caused. None of that stops the storm season, and cyclone Eloise has destroyed crops and compounded food shortages.

SEED Madagascar is one of the charities responding. You can contribute to their appeal here.

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