Lessons from Haiyan: Findings from OML Center’s work in Tacloban featured in science magazine

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Lessons from Haiyan: Findings from OML Center’s work in Tacloban featured in science magazine

OML Center File Photo.

Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda) went down in recent history as one of the strongest tropical cyclones to make landfall in the Philippines. In its wake, it left over PHP 90 billion worth of damage and over 6,000 lives lost. With more intense tropical cyclones becoming the norm due to climate change, what are the critical lessons that can be drawn from Typhoon Haiyan? 

In its issue made available online last August 24, the Environment: Science and Policy for Sustainable Development magazine published an article by researchers Dr. Rita Marteleira and Dr. Carlos Tito Santos on “Lessons from Adaptive Responses to Super Typhoon Haiyan in Tacloban, Philippines”. The article drew from a survey implemented in partnership with the OML Center, which aimed to build an understanding of resilience at the community level in relation to the typhoon and climate change in general. The survey was conducted among  282 households across 53 of Tacloban’s 138 barangays in 2016.

The researchers’ article focused on the perceptions on climate change, the incidence of extreme hazards, and post-disaster rehabilitation and recovery measures and policies of communities in Tacloban after Typhoon Haiyan.

Perceptions on climate change, communication

Survey results revealed that community members seemed largely aware of the main climate change impacts like shifting seasons and rising temperatures. They also acknowledged that human activities impact the environment. However, only a few understood that the increasing intensity of tropical cyclones are among climate change’s consequences. Contradictorily, many thought climate change was the cause behind Typhoon Haiyan’s strength. The incoherence, according to the researchers, can be seen as evidence of lack of understanding on the real climate change impacts on tropical cyclones.

The article also pointed out the respondents perceive a lack of support from the national government. They do, however, rely on the local government unit for their safety and well-being but acknowledged that there is a need to improve communication channels and dissemination of hazards information as a preventive measure and not issued only during the onslaught of extreme weather events. 

Critical measures

The researchers identified important measures that must support comprehensive climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction and management policies. These include land use planning, implementation of building codes, and retrofitting vulnerable infrastructures. They also noted that Typhoon Haiyan revealed the vulnerability of the existing water supply system, which highlighted the importance of implementing more comprehensive water security measures that encompass climate change impacts on water resources. 

The article also underscored “the need for local authorities to avoid implementing no-build zones as a reactive measure to the impacts of tropical cyclones without undertaking complete vulnerability and risk assessments.” 

Dr. Marteleira and Dr. Santos are members of the Center for Ecology, Evolution, and Environmental Changes – Climate Change Impacts, Adaptation and Modelling (CCIAM) of the Faculty of Sciences at the University of Lisbon. Visit Taylor & Francis Online to read the published article in full.

Aside from the survey, the OML Center also conducted focus group discussions and interviews with LGUs to determine the level of understanding of “resilience.” The resulting reports provided findings and recommendations on how to measure and improve resilience. Project materials from the Yolanda study are available on the OML Center website.

Other studies on resilience and extreme weather events, including Typhoon Haiyan, are available in the Climate, Disaster and Development Journal (CDDJ) website. The CDDJ is an open-access, peer-reviewed journal focused on all aspects and interactions of climate, disasters, and development and their interaction.