Extreme weather makes 20m homeless

Oxfam analysis of data from the Internal Displacement Monitoring centre found there were five times more extreme weather disasters — such as cyclones, floods and wildfires — reported in the last decade, that led to people being displaced.

These figures do not include those driven from their homes by drought, rising sea levels and other “slow-onset” climate-fuelled disasters.

Oxfam’s briefing Forced from Home found people were now seven times more likely to be forced from their homes by extreme weather events than by earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, and three times more likely than by conflict.

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Number of climate-related disasters per year that have resulted in people being internally displaced. Blue line represents weather-related disasters and green line is non-weather related. Source: Oxfam.Source:Supplied

The analysis shows that people in poor countries, who bear the least responsibility for global carbon pollution, are most at risk.

Small island developing states, such as Cuba and Tuvalu, make up seven of the 10 countries that face the highest risk of internal displacement due to extreme weather events.

They are 150 times more likely to be displaced by extreme weather disasters than communities in Europe.

About 80 per cent of those displaced in the last decade live in Asia, which is home to a third of the world’s poorest people.

Oxfam Australia climate change adviser Simon Bradshaw said Australia’s neighbours in the Pacific had contributed the least to the causes of the climate crisis but were already suffering the worst impacts.

“The current bushfires in Australia have shown that nobody is immune to the impacts of the climate crisis,” Dr Bradshaw said.

“Our research reaffirms that communities in the Pacific face particularly severe impacts from global heating, including being forced from their homes by extreme weather disasters.”

Dr Bradshaw said the Australian Government needed to move beyond coal and back calls for a new fund to help poor communities recover from climate disasters.

Oxfam is supporting the establishment of a new Loss and Damage finance facility to help communities displaced or impacted by the climate crisis.

The fund is likely to take centre stage at the UN Climate Summit in Madrid where a review into the Warsaw International Mechanism for Loss and Damage will be concluded.

“It’s only fair that we (Australia) add our support to this, as well as further cutting our emissions, considering our much greater responsibility for the crisis,” Dr Bradshaw said.

He said the unequal impacts of the climate crisis were now apparent across the globe.

People in low and lower-middle income countries such as India, Nigeria and Bolivia are more than four times likely to be displaced by extreme weather disasters than people in rich countries such as the United States or Australia.

The briefing also shows that it is the poorest in society who are most vulnerable.

For example, in Zimbabwe, where 51,000 people were displaced by Cyclone Idai in March this year, the most affected communities were those in rural areas of Chimanimani and Chipinge where poor infrastructure and housing were unable to withstand the heavy rains and wind.

Displaced women are also particularly vulnerable as they face high levels of sexual violence.

“Our governments are fuelling a crisis that is driving millions of women, men and children from their homes, and the poorest people in the poorest countries are paying the heaviest price,” Oxfam International acting executive director Chema Vera said.

Oxfam analysis shows that economic losses from extreme weather disasters over the last decade were, on average, equivalent to 2 per cent of countries’ national income.

That figure is much higher for many developing countries – up to a significant 20 per cent for Small Island Developing States.

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