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A New Record on People Displaced by Extreme Weather: raceAhead

Some seven million people have been displaced due to extreme weather—in just the first six months of 2019. 

It marks a new record, writes the New York Times’ Somini Sengupta, that indicates this year might be “on pace to be one of the most disastrous years in almost two decades.”

And that was before Hurricane Dorian, she points out. The Category 5 hurricane has killed 50 people, and another 2500 people remain missing following its destruction of the Bahamas. 

The data is the latest from the International Displacement Monitoring Centre’s (IDMC) mid-year report, which offers a “gauge of global displacement” from January to June. 

“There were about 10.8 million new displacements worldwide in the first half of 2019,” says the IDMC. “Seven million triggered by disasters and 3.8 million by conflict and violence. Extreme weather events, particularly storms and floods, were responsible for most of the disaster displacement.”

The report takes stock of the 950 extreme weather events in the 6-month period that contributed to the new record. Cyclone Idai “triggered” 617,000 displacements in Mozambique, Malawi, Zimbabwe, and Madagascar. Floods impacted 90% of Iran, and led to 500,000 new displacements. Floods and landslides in the Philippines were another 405,000. In Ethiopia, flooding caused the displacement of 190,000 people. In China, an earthquake led to 80,000 displacements. In Somalia, it was drought that displaced 72,000. 

It paints a terrifying picture—and it may not be a complete one. Data, says the IDMC, is difficult to obtain in many countries. Governments might not have (or want to give) accurate totals, and other information from prolonged disasters (like monsoons) might not be available yet. As a result, these totals might even be underestimated. 

Some countries are better prepared for climate change and the higher displaced numbers are partially indicative of that. As the New York Times says, the numbers include people “who might otherwise have been killed.” In India and Bangladesh, 3.4 million were displaced due to Cyclone Fani evacuations.

But, as this report from the Global Commission on Adaptation counters, the response might be better, but it’s not enough. “There are bright spots, but so far the response has been gravely insufficient,” says the foreword co-authored by Bill Gates, former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, and CEO of the World Bank Kristalina Georgieva. Along with more “political leadership,” they write, there needs to be “a revolution in understanding, planning, and finance that makes climate risks visible,” and which “incorporate these risks into all decisions.”

As Paul Polman, former Unilever CEO, says, the business community especially needs to recognize the “evidence and opportunities on climate change,” and adapt “to do business differently.” And this could be a first test of the growing commitment of the corporate world to address the many impacts of climate change.

Because extreme weather events will only increase. As Alexandra Bilak, the IDMIC’s director told the New York Times, countries, especially those often hit, “need to prepare for similar, if not worsening, trends.”

Here’s a reminder that climate change-worsened extreme weather disproportionately affects those who already vulnerable, like people living in poverty or people already displaced by conflict and violence, and threatens the global food supply. Climate change could also force an estimated 100 million people into poverty by 2030.

And, just by the end of 2019, increased extreme weather events could lead to a record 22 million displaced.

tamara.elwaylly@fortune.com

On Point

California to place a statewide cap on rent increases in an attempt to tackle the housing crisis Under the bill, annual rent increases will be limited by 5% after inflation. It also outlines more restrictions on evictions. The new law could impact around eight million tenants. “The housing crisis is reaching every corner of America, where you’re seeing high home prices, high rents, evictions, and homelessness that we’re all struggling to grapple with,” said David Chiu, a Democratic California State assembly member, and the author of the bill. California is also home to the country’s largest homeless population, and it’s an issue that “has come to dominate the state’s political conversation,” says the New York Times. In January 2018, around 129,972 people in the state were considered homeless.
New York Times

While on the topic of housing… In an attempt to address the more than 1,000 people who need emergency housing in a city where public housing basically doesn’t exist, Barcelona has started building shipping container apartments. The 12 apartments will uphold conventional housing standards, and won’t even resemble containers once completed, an architect involved in the project told the Guardian. The “idea that the poor are being forced to live in sardine tins is nonsense,” says Tenants’ Union spokesperson Jaime Palomera. But this housing approach—which was highly criticized in London—raises concerns for its lack of insulation, especially with regards to temperature and noise.
Guardian

Millions still live in poverty in the U.S., despite a lower poverty rate While the poverty rate declined slightly to 11.8% in 2018 (down from 12.3% in 2017), the number of people living in poverty was still 38.1 million that year, according to the latest income and poverty report from the Census Bureau. And, as NPR points out, that’s one in eight people. As it turns out, instrumental to preventing people from falling below the poverty line are benefits like Social Security (which helped 27 million people), and food stamps (three million), the Bureau said in another report. (Lest you forget, the use of food stamps and other government benefits could be the basis of rejection under the Trump Administration’s public charge immigration rule.)
NPR

On Background

On Sept. 12, 1974, protests against desegregation busing in Boston turned violent “School buses carrying African American children were pelted with eggs, bricks, and bottles, and police in combat gear fought to control angry white protesters besieging the schools,” HISTORY says. While Brown v. Board of Education ended the racial segregation of schools in 1954, schools remained segregated (for various reasons rooted in racism). In 1971, following another Supreme Court ruling, busing began. And in South Boston, particularly, the legal mandate turned the city into “a war zone,” Regina Williams, who witnessed the violence then, told WBUR. View archival raw footage of the events (and Bostonians’ reactions) here, courtesy of CBS Boston.
HISTORY

Qualifications apparently matter less than race when it comes to small business loans A recent report from the National Community Reinvestment Coalition (NCRC) found that people of color face a more difficult process. The study used a “matched-pairs” methodology, where black, Hispanic, and white males were sent to various banks to ask about small business loans. They were armed with “nearly identical business profiles and characteristics,” except the qualifications of the black and Hispanic participants were tweaked to be “superior to those of the white testers.” Yet, 16% of blacks and 11% of Hispanics were asked for a (not required) W2 form—none of their white counterparts were. And, in the 180 studied interactions with bank loan representatives, while the customer service was generally “poor” for all participants, the white testers did get better treatment in the form of friendlier customer service and more information on loans. They also had a higher chance of being asked back to the bank.
NCRC

Around 40 million people are trapped in modern-day slavery Of those people, around 25% are children, according to a report from the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). “We cannot afford to stand by while more and more people are driven into forced labor, servile marriage, or child labor,” Special Rapporteur Urmila Bhoola told the Human Rights Council when presenting the report. In 2016, according to the International Labour Organisation’s Global Estimates of Modern Slavery report, 25 million people were in forced labor, and 15 million in forced marriage. There are “several factors”—like climate change and migration “through unsafe channels”—that could lead to a higher risk of exploitation, Bhoola said. But this “must serve as a wake-up call.”
OHCHR

 

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Quote

“Around the year 2030, 10 years, 252 days, and 10 hours away from now, we will be in a position where we set off an irreversible chain reaction beyond the human control that will most likely lead to the end of our civilization as we know it.”

Greta Thurnberg, speaking to the UK Parliament on April 23, 2019.