Lord Ashdown has described the typhoon which hit the Philippines two weeks ago and the deadly cyclone which struck an Italian island this week as “flashes of the future”.
The Liberal Democrat peer warned that failure to tackle climate change by politicians would result in natural disasters occurring with far greater frequency.
Speaking in his capacity as president of Unicef UK, he said: “This is the most powerful typhoon hurricane ever in recorded history to hit land. Never has there been one this powerful.
“Secondly, it’s always the kids who suffer most, 5.5 million children are affected by this overall.”
Asked whether global warming was to blame, he replied: “There are none so blind as those who will not see.”
Lord Ashdown said “these are flashes of the future”.
He went on: “Now if that was an isolated incident, it would be a meteorological phenomenon, but the real worry is this: it’s not. It comes on top of these extraordinary meteorological events that have occurred; there were unprecedented floods in Sardinia the other day; there were unprecedented typhoons in the United States; there were unprecedented rains that caused the Pakistan floods not long ago.
“And by the way, that was exactly what was predicted by those who warned of global warming some five or ten years ago.”
Lord Ashdown said that only time would tell the extent of the damage caused by the typhoon and whether rescue efforts had been successful, but that the first days were the most crucial, as aid teams struggle to reach the victims. Unable to hide his frustration at the lack of progress on climate change made by political leaders, he said: “I just don’t understand why, in the recently concluded climate change talks in Warsaw, we are not yet anything like gripping this issue with the urgency that is needed.
“And unless we do that, what you see isn’t going to be one event that shocks us and saddens us, but an event that is repeated and repeated and repeated.”
The former Liberal Democrat leader added: “No-one is saying that human beings alone are causing global warming, they’re not – the Earth is going through one of its global warming cycles.
“But there is no doubt now, none whatsoever, that human beings are adding to that, and adding to that in a dangerous and ultimately fatal way.”
Meanwhile Six British aid flights carrying 1,400 tents and other supplies will arrive in the Philippines this week, international development secretary Justine Greening announced as she visited the devastated areas.
The flights and the investment of £5 million to improve the ability of four cities in the country to withstand extreme weather events takes the UK government’s contribution to the relief effort to more than £55m.