Nearly a week after the passage of Cyclone Batsirai, Madagascar, already in the grip of a famine caused by chronic drought, continues to heal its wounds. The succession of climatic disasters on the large island in the Indian Ocean fundamentally threatens the life and development of the Malagasy people. If this sounds like a familiar piece of news, it’s because it comes just weeks after Tropical Storm Ana devastated Southern and Eastern Africa killing over 80 people in the process.[1] 

A recent article from Aljazeera estimated that “The death toll from Cyclone Batsirai in Madagascar jumped to 120 on Friday with about 124,000 people with their homes damaged or destroyed, and some 30,000 more displaced and camping at 108 sites”.[2]

The frequency and intensity of cyclones and droughts observed in recent months demonstrate the country’s vulnerability to the climate crisis. The famine that hit the country in 2021 is already considered the first famine linked to climate change. [3] Since the 1910s, only 12 category 4 cyclones have hit Madagascar. 8 have been since 2000. 

As climate change or climate breakdown increases, cyclones like Batsirai will become more intense. The longer it takes us to address development and reach development goals, the greater the impact of these events will be. At the same time that climate change and development can impact each other negatively, we can address both challenges at the same time.

With the exception of South Africa, African countries have done relatively little to contribute to climate change, yet are being severely impacted and have little to no resources to cope with the aftermath. Less developed African countries are a natural disaster away from sinking into abject poverty and unjust, almost criminal social conditions, exacerbated by climate change.  They need to be equipped to deal with the impacts of extreme weather but with a lack of resources to support adaptation measures, it’s near impossible to absorb and recover from the impact. Global North countries, historically responsible for the climate crisis, as well as the fossil fuel industry, must finance the adaptation and mitigation efforts of countries like Madagascar while increasing their efforts to reduce emissions.

While no one weather event can be linked directly to climate change, these types of extreme weather events are predicted, by climate scientists, to become more severe as the world warms.

Countries like Madagascar, which are numerous on the continent and the Global South, are calling for climate justice centered on human needs and rights first, followed by a sustainable development pathway. This is a non-negotiable emergency that is at the same time a matter of survival for millions of people. continues to advocate for a just transition to renewable energy, which presents us with the opportunity to remodel our energy system, and move away from dirty, centrally run and owned power plants to distributed, renewable energy systems that are owned by and benefit the communities where they are located, and an energy system that does not fuel climate breakdown through burning of fossil fuels like coal and diesel, and fewer weather related catastrophes, saving lives and livelihoods.

We have a short window of time to stop our climate from changing beyond repair. We don’t want headlines like ‘Another dangerous cyclone is about to make landfall in Africa’ to become normal for us, so we should be taking action to stop the fossil fuel industry that’s driving climate breakdown.