Less than a week after Fiji became the first of 195 countries to formally sign onto the Paris climate deal, the island nation felt the devastating impacts of global warming first-hand when it was battered by a Category 5 cyclone—among the biggest ever to hit the Southern Hemisphere.
According to news reports, “monster” Cyclone Winston, which hit over the weekend, brought winds of over 200 miles per hour, torrential rain, and waves of up to 40 feet. A month-long state of disaster has been declared, while Oxfam in the Pacific regional director Raijeli Nicole said communication blackspots were making it very hard to assess damage and determine the scale of the response required.
The Independent has a video of the storm’s impact:
Twenty-one people have been confirmed dead so far, but as Nicole noted: “Given the intensity of the storm and the images we have seen so far, there are strong concerns that the death toll won’t stop climbing today and that hundreds of people will have seen their homes and livelihoods completely destroyed.”
More than a few experts were quick to link Cyclone Winston to human-caused global warming, saying the extreme weather event was “more painful evidence” of climate change:
Its low-lying coral atolls make the frontline nation “especially vulnerable to sea level rise,” Weather Underground meteorologists Jeff Masters and Bob Henson noted on Friday:
Slate staff writer Eric Holthaus pointed out this inherent irony over the weekend. “Fiji is responsible for just 0.04 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions,” he wrote, “and the confluence of this week’s events there highlights the brutal injustice posed by a warming world.”