An increase in extreme weather events caused by rising temperatures could undermine international attempts, through the United Nations, to alleviate poverty by 2030.
The report by the UK’s Overseas Development Institute, concludes that ‘without concerted action, up to 325 million extremely poor people could be living in the 49 countries most exposed to the full range of natural hazards and climate extremes in 2030.’
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Drought, extreme rainfall and flooding have a disproportionate effect upon the poorest people.
The report identifies 11 countries which have large numbers of poor people who are at risk from a range of hazards, and who lack the ability to minimize the impacts. These are: Bangladesh, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Kenya, Madagascar, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan, South Sudan, Sudan and Uganda.
10 countries, facing the same problems, but with high proportions of people in poverty are: Benin, Central African Republic, Chad, The Gambia, Guinea Bissau, Haiti, Liberia, Mali, North Korea, and Zimbabwe.
The report emphasizes the importance of the role of disaster risk management (DRM). It cites the 2008 example of Cyclone Nargis, which killed 138,000 people in Myanmar, while a storm system of similar strength, Hurricane Gustav, which hit the US and Caribbean, killed just 153.
Developed countries are failing to recognize the role that extreme weather events play in keeping people poor. Money tends to flow only in response to disasters, not to prevent them.
Using the example of last week’s Tropical Cyclone Phailin, one of the authors, Dr Tom Mitchell said, ‘The very fact that it killed so few people means that the chances of raising big finance for recovery efforts are going to be pretty slim. It has not got the big numbers attached to it.’
By 2030 climate change is expected to increase the drought hazard in parts of Central and South America, southern Europe, eastern and southeastern Asia and much of southern Africa. This is expected to have a major impact in corresponding areas of high poverty rates such as Democratic Republic of the Congo and northern India.
The report states that the UN Millennium Development goals have, so far, failed to address the risk factors that push people into poverty, especially natural disasters.
It also makes clear that funding of assistance needs to be rebalanced. Currently, $9 out of every $10 spent on disasters is spent after the disaster has struck. Just 40 cents in every $100 is spent on reducing disaster risk.