An estimated 1.4 million people have been displaced by recent flooding in Nigeria. Think about that number for a second. By comparison, in the United States, an estimated 1.5 million people in the Gulf states were evacuated in 2005 ahead of Hurricane Katrina — billed as the largest climate shift event since the Dust Bowl — but many of them were able to return home after a few days. a month later about 600,000 displaced persons. That was a monumental catastrophe. But the floods in Nigeria could exceed these displacement figures – and the story has barely gotten through the US media.
The floods are affecting 27 out of 36 states in Nigeria. (Can you even imagine 75 percent of US states being flooded at the same time?) So far, over 600 people have died, and “for some states,” reports Ruth Maclean for the New York Times this week, “more than one Month of floods likely to come.” UN officials have acknowledged the role of climate change in worsening floods.
Perhaps the most terrifying thing about these floods is that Nigeria is not even considered one of the countries hardest hit by climate change. TNR’s Kate Aronoff wrote about these countries in an article published on Wednesday. The group, known as the V20 (for “Vulnerable 20 Group,” though it now includes 58 nations), recently floated the idea of halting payments on its national debt, in part because debt service now prevents it from building up funds to prepare and up respond to climate catastrophes. This is a measure born of desperation, writes Kate.
“They’re all concerned about becoming the next Pakistan,” Kevin Gallagher, director of the Global Development Policy Center, told Kate. Floods in Pakistan since June have killed more than 1,700 people. Damage is now estimated at $40 billion, according to new estimates released this morning. Add to that an “already crushing $100 billion in external debt. Pakistan’s foreign exchange reserves are only $8.3 billion,” Kate noted.
Disturbingly, Kate reports that “more than 35 percent of the national debt is owed by V20 private creditors” – for-profit financial institutions like Blackrock or Vanguard. That means investors are actually making money on payments that prevent poorer nations from being prepared for the next deadly flood, drought, or storm.
Think about it ahead of the UN climate talks in early November. In previous talks, rich nations like the US – which bear a disproportionate responsibility for global warming – have held back on significant debt relief measures, let alone financing climate losses and damage.
The worst could be yet to come for Nigeria. As the New York Times reports on Pakistan, grieving families cannot bury their deceased loved ones: the cemeteries are flooded.
While Biden’s plan for a national civilian climate corps didn’t materialize, the Washington Post has a nice rundown of all the states that decided to make state-level efforts in the absence of federal action, from California’s early food waste reduction initiative ( Never forget: food waste accounts for 8 to 10 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions!) to Michigan’s announcement last month that it had raised $1.3 million in federal funding for the state’s climate-focused iteration of AmeriCorps.
The Mississippi River hit a record low Monday due to a prolonged drought. The drought is already wreaking havoc on transport upstream and downstream, and if conditions worsen or continue – as expected – supply chain chaos will increase.
That’s the startling number that prompted the Alaska Department of Fish and Game to cancel snow crab season for the first time last week. It is widely believed that climate change is contributing to the steep decline, as the crabs are very sensitive to water temperatures. (For further reading, don’t miss Audrey Gray’s 2019 report on how global warming is ravaging New England’s fisheries.)
Elsewhere in the ecosystem
Are you interested in nature? You have to vote in the midterms.
Many people are disillusioned with politics these days, Heather Hansman admits. But “here’s the thing,” she writes: “If you care about nature, not voting is a recipe for increasing frustration and disappointment.” And don’t forget state elections and ballot initiatives!
You know what’s even snoozyer than the word “midterm”? The expression “state supply commission”. But the officials on these public utility commissions regulate electricity, gas, telecommunications, water, and sewage supplies. They have incredible power over how we generate energy and what types of energy we use because they are responsible for locating and approving new plants. Depending on the state, these individuals are either appointed by the governor (see meaning above) or elected. Montana, Arizona and Georgia are holding major state council elections this year. [Craig] oyster [vice president of political affairs at the League of Conservation Voters] says the makeup of these bodies will be critical to whether or not we create a clean energy future.
Auster also suggests keeping[ing] an eye on the elections for the Texas railroad commission, which oversees the state’s massive oil and gas industry, and the land commissioner in New Mexico.
Read Heather Hansman’s article on Outside.
This article first appeared in Apocalypse Soon, a weekly TNR newsletter written by Assistant Editor Heather Souvaine Horn. Sign up here.