An estimated 1.4 million people have been displaced by the recent floods in Nigeria. Wrap your mind around that number for a second. In comparison, in the United States in 2005, an estimated 1.5 million people in the Gulf states were evacuated ahead of Hurricane Katrina.considered the biggest climate displacement event since the Dust Bowl, but many of them were able to return home after a few days, leaving about 600,000 displaced a month later. That was a monumental disaster. Yet the flooding in Nigeria could be greater than the number of displaced people – and the story has barely made it into the US media.
The floods affect 27 of Nigeria’s 36 states. (Can you imagine 75 percent of US states being flooded at the same time?) More than 600 people have been killed so far, and “for some states,” Ruth Maclean reports for The New York Times this week, “there will likely be more than a month of flooding.” UN officials have confirmed the role of climate change in exacerbating the floods.
Perhaps the most horrifying thing about these floods is that Nigeria is not even considered one of the countries most vulnerable to climate change. TNR’s Kate Aronoff wrote about these countries in a piece published Wednesday. The group known as the V20 (for “Vulnerable 20 Group,” though it now includes 58 countries) recently came up with the idea of halting payments on their national debt, in part because paying off those debts now prevents them from doing so. build funds to prepare for and respond to climate disasters. That is a measure born out of desperation, Kate writes.
“They’re all worried about becoming the next Pakistan,” Kevin Gallagher, director of the Global Development Policy Center, told Kate. Flooding in Pakistan since June has killed more than 1,700 people. The damage is now expected to cost $40 billion, according to new estimates released this morning. That comes on top of an “already crushing $100 billion foreign debt. Pakistan’s foreign exchange reserves are only $8.3 billion,” Kate noted.
Disturbingly, Kate reports, “more than 35 percent of the V20 national debt is owed to private creditors” — for-profit financial institutions like Blackrock or Vanguard. That means investors are actually making money on payments that keep poorer countries from preparing for the next deadly flood, drought or storm.
Think about this ahead of the UN climate talks in early November. In past talks, wealthy countries like the US — which bear a disproportionate responsibility for global warming — have dragged along substantial debt relief measures, let alone funding for climate loss and damage.
The worst may yet be in Nigeria. As The New York Times reports on Pakistan, grieving families are unable to bury their dead loved ones: cemeteries are flooded.
While Biden’s plan for a national civil climate corps has not materialized, The Washington Post has a nice rundown of all the states that have decided to launch state-level efforts in the absence of federal action, from California’s early initiative to curb food waste (Don’t forget: food waste accounts for 8 to 10 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions!) to the Michigan’s announcement last month that it secured $1.3 million in federal funding for the state’s climate-focused iteration of AmeriCorps.
The Mississippi River reached a record low level on Monday due to an ongoing drought. The drought is already wreaking havoc with shipments upstream and downstream, and if conditions worsen or continue – as expected – chaos in the supply chain will increase.
That’s the staggering figure that led the Alaska Department of Fish and Game to cancel the snow crab season for the first time ever last week. Climate change is widely believed to be contributing to the rapid decline, as the crabs are very sensitive to water temperatures. (For more, don’t miss Audrey Gray’s 2019 report on how global warming is devastating New England fisheries.)
Elsewhere in the ecosystem
Care about the outdoors? You must vote in the midterm elections.
Many people are disenchanted with politics right now, Heather Hansman admits. But “here’s the point,” she writes, “If you care about the outdoors, not voting is a recipe for more and more frustration and disappointment.” And don’t forget the elections for the state administration and the ballot initiatives!
You know what’s even more snoozy than the word “midterm”? The expression “state utility commission”. But the officials of those public utility committees regulate electricity, gas, telecommunications, water and wastewater services. They have incredible power over how we generate energy and what types of energy we use, as they are responsible for placing and permitting new facilities. Depending on the state, these individuals are appointed by the governor (see above on: importance) or elected. This year sees major state council elections in Montana, Arizona and Georgia. [Craig] Auster [vice president of political affairs at the League of Conservation Voters] says the composition of those councils will be critical to whether or not we create a clean energy future.
Auster also suggests holding[ing] an eye on elections for the Texas Railroad Commission, which oversees the state’s massive oil and gas industry, and New Mexico’s Land Commissioner.
This article first appeared in Apocalypse Soon, a weekly TNR newsletter written by Deputy Editor Heather Souvaine Horn. Register here.