Climate Change Shifts Foreign Policy Paradigms

09/07/2010 02:51 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

The rift between humanitarian aid and military response in regions close to or in disaster stricken areas of the Middle East, specifically Pakistan, is becoming ever larger. These needs however, aren't mutually exclusive of each other. The challenges brought on by climate change might very well shift U.S. foreign policy strategy altogether in the near future to better combine the two initiatives for effective organizational implementation and indeed possible displacement prevention.

Though President Obama has requested nearly $334 million for international climate adaptation in the Fiscal Year 2011 budget, it is merely a step in the right direction, falling far too short for what is needed overall. In 2009, only ten percent of the US's foreign disaster aid budget was devoted to disaster risk reduction which is estimated to have reached $86.7 million. However, the United Nations are estimating at least five times that amount alone is needed to deal with the disaster response in Pakistan, calling for over $460 million dollars to mitigate the crisis. If the US commits more earlier, it should reason that less would be needed following the strike of disaster, but that kind of forward planning has been in short supply.

Thus far, the U.S. has promised almost $76 million dollars in relief efforts to Pakistan, and has additionally sent 19 helicopters to help transport relief supplies. By comparison however, the U.S. Government sent nearly $1 billion in aid in response to the tsunami.

With unlimited speculation as to it's reasons and causes among experts, climate change represents an even larger speculation in its future effects. Correlation between climate change and natural disasters must be made official and enter the public vernacular in order to appropriately advance future preparation and response efforts. Without a doubt, scientists confirm that climate change is the culprit the recent flooding in Pakistan, displacing so many and killing others. So why shouldn't the US address climate change strategy in the form of disaster preparations to prevent?

Six and a half million Pakistanis still need food, water, and medical supplies on account of abnormal air patterns. Scientists worldwide have recorded new temperature highs this summer, with some reporting them as the hottest in 130 years. The higher ocean temperatures lead to more water vapor entering the atmosphere, leading to an abundance of oversaturated air that is not able to be equally dispersed. This then inhibits the likelihood of extreme precipitation, causing the flooding Pakistan is seeing now. This abnormal airflow is creating varying pressure extremes, blocking warm saturated air from moving west to east as is supposed to occur.

Predicting such events is difficult and is therefore ultimately unpreventable, but preparation is the key element, both simple and applicable. At present however, only 35% of what the UN is calling for with regard to funds needed to assist Pakistan is being matched by the US and UK combined. Should disaster preparation include tactics centric to climate change, the amount of money allocated to help those at risk will equate to considerable savings in both life and indeed funds. Equally great is the incentive to foster partnerships in developing and implementing these preparations, facilitating good will while increasing political stability.

Earlier in the year, the US Department of State promised $250 million to help with Afghani refugees fleeing into Pakistan. What often flies under the radar is that internal skirmishes between the Pakistani government and militants have displaced almost 1 million Pakistanis already, joining the 2 million Afghani refugees estimated to be residing in Pakistan. With the recent flooding in the region, the problem is further compounded, increasing the amount of resources needed as well as undermining U.S. foreign policy efforts thus far.

Zamir Akram, Pakistani ambassador to the U.N. center in Geneva, said floodwaters now cover an area roughly the size of England - images of which are coming back via the satellites. Estimates put the number of displaced people at somewhere between 15 million and 20 million, and the Pakistani government believes over 1,600 are confirmed dead.

Climate change is a force to be reckoned with and to be reckoned with urgently. If the U.S. intends to continue to respond to humanitarian needs abroad, it must factor the preparation efforts needed for climate change among those most at risk. Preparation surely increases effective response.

By the team at 1minutetosavetheworld, an innovative and international campaign and competition, raising awareness to the global challenges of climate change.