This story includes details on the impacts of climate change that may be difficult for some readers. If you are feeling overwhelmed by this crisis situation here is a list of resources on how to cope with fears and feelings about the scope and pace of the climate crisis.
“Collective complacency” in the face of the climate crisis and other human-caused catastrophes is setting the world up for 560 disasters a year by 2030, according to a new UN report that says humans are overly optimistic and have made short-sighted decisions so far.
The number of disaster events is set to reach 1.5 per day by 2030, says the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR) in its latest global assessment report. Wildfires and floods—calling cards for the climate crisis—will loom large in the suffering and devastation, but future pandemics and industrial accidents are also in the cards, reports Reuters.
The UNDRR blames these disasters on a broken perception of risk based on “optimism, underestimation, and invincibility,” leading to policy, finance, and development decisions that exacerbate existing vulnerabilities and put people in danger.
The failure “to incorporate disaster risk in how we live, build, and invest… is setting humanity on a spiral of self-destruction,” said UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed, who delivered the report to UN headquarters in New York.
“We must turn our collective complacency to action.”
Developing countries are in particularly desperate need of a clear-headed, informed, and global long view: they already lose an average 1% of their economic activity (GDP) to disasters, compared to the average 0.1 to 0.3% loss suffered by developed countries.
The UNDRR report also found a lack of insurance coverage in the developing world, with coverage rates “close to zero” in some developing countries.
“The good news is that human decisions are the largest contributors to disaster risk, so we have the power to substantially reduce the threats posed to humanity, and especially the most vulnerable among us,” said UNDRR head Mami Mizutori, the UN Secretary General’s special representative for disaster risk reduction.
The UNDRR report arrives alongside an urgent appeal for action from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees The UNHCR found that in 2021, 3,077 refugees either died or went missing on the notoriously dangerous Central, Western Mediterranean, and Northwest Africa maritime routes now increasingly used by people desperate to find asylum in Europe.
A fourth, much safer route that involves getting to Turkey first, then crossing the Aegean Sea to Greece—one that had been the dominant route for Europe-bound refugees since 2016—has seen a sharp reduction in numbers since the onset of the pandemic, writes Forbes. The increasing use of violently intimidating “pushbacks” by Greek border police, emboldened by the anti-immigration New Democracy government, is forcing refugees onto far more perilous maritime journeys, Forbes explains.
“Most of the sea crossings took place in packed, unseaworthy, inflatable boats—many of which capsized or were deflated leading to the loss of life,” the UNHCR writes.
One particularly perilous Northwest Africa route requires refugees to be out on open water for as many as 10 days as they voyage from coastal states like Senegal and Mauritania to the Canary Islands, says the UNHCR. Many of the vessels attempting this journey “drifted off course or otherwise went missing without trace in these waters.”
But “even greater numbers may have died on journeys through the Sahara Desert and remote border areas, in detention centres, or while in the captivity of smugglers or traffickers,” said the UNHCR. “Among the litany of abuses reported by people traveling these routes are extrajudicial killings, unlawful and arbitrary detention, sexual and gender-based violence, forced labour, slavery, forced marriage, and other gross human rights violations.”
The numbers lost on Central and Western Mediterranean or Atlantic crossings in 2021 show a shocking increase from 2020, when UNHCR reported 1,776 dead or missing along the three routes.
And 2022 looks to be another tragic year, with 478 people reported dead or missing at sea since January.
The UNHCR warned that “continued political instability and conflicts, deteriorating socioeconomic conditions, as well as the impact of climate change may increase displacement and dangerous onward movements.” The UN agency has launched a formal appeal for US$163.5 million to help protect refugees already on the move, and “to ensure credible alternatives to dangerous journeys through inclusion, and strengthened youth programming and local community-based development.”