As many as 50 million people across the world face potential hunger, disease, and water shortages by early 2016 if countries do not act immediately, declared Oxfam International on Monday, addressing those nations predicted to be ravaged by this year's Super El Niño as well as wealthy governments indebted to those most vulnerable to climate change.
"The warning bells are deafening," said Meg Quartermaine, humanitarian manager with Oxfam Australia, which issued the warning on the same day that the powerful Typhoon Melor made landfall in the Philippines, forcing the evacuation of 725,000 people.
The Philippines is among the countries that the global anti-poverty group has previously identified as having a food supply already threatened by the impacts of climate change. The typhoons and other extreme weather events that are being predicted under, what could be "the most powerful El Niño on record" are expected to drive millions of people in the Pacific rim region, and across the globe, into even more dire straits.
Monday's report (pdf) said that Papua New Guinea will likely bear the brunt of this season's "super charged weather phenomenon," with the country’s National Disaster Committee estimating that as many as 3 million people are at risk of starvation, "as crop failures force many people to cut back to eating just one meal a day."
While that nation—along with Vanuatu, Fiji, the Solomon Islands, Samoa, and Tonga—are "experiencing worsening drought, central Pacific countries like Kiribati and Tuvalu will likely see intense rain causing flooding and higher sea levels," the report states.
What's more, the warning comes on top of a recent scientific study which found that heightened greenhouse gas emissions will likely exacerbate the naturally-occurring El Niño phenomenon and drive global temperatures to record highs.
The stark report comes just days after global leaders adopted the landmark Paris Agreement in an effort to stem the growing crisis of climate change. While the COP21 pact made strides in limiting countries' greenhouse gas emissions and capitulated to the demands of small island nations to limit warming to 1.5°C, it failed to hold the world's richest and most polluting nations accountable for their outsized role in driving the global emergency.
"This is a wake-up call for those on the way home from the UN climate conference," Quartermaine said of the Oxfam report. "Emissions targets must be rapidly strengthened if we are to ensure the goal of limiting warming to below 2°C or 1.5°C can be met. And more funding is required for vulnerable communities to adapt to increasingly unpredictable and extreme weather."
The group commends the Australian government for committing $9 million to support Papua New Guinea and other countries in the Pacific in order to prepare for and mitigate the effects of El Niño. However, Quartermaine adds that "it is clear that much more will be needed over coming months as the impacts of this potentially unprecedented El Niño event become greater."
"This is a crisis on a huge global scale," she adds.