Who will bear the brunt of climate shocks?

The scale of the flooding in Pakistan this week has been truly shocking. 

The floods, described by prime minister Shebaz Sharif as the worst in Pakistan’s history, have so far killed more than 1,100 people and displaced millions. Sharif said it would cost at least $10bn to repair damaged infrastructure spread across the country. 

Meanwhile, as the country struggles to cope with the scale of the disaster, around a half million of those displaced are living in organised camps.

From a climate change perspective, the situation is galling. Pakistan is responsible for less than 1% of the world’s planet-warming gases, European Union data shows, yet it is the eighth most vulnerable nation to the climate crisis, according to the Global Climate Risk Index.

The recovery could take years, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies in Pakistan have said. 

And the elephant in the room here is who should pay for the destruction. According to a recent report by the Asian Development Bank, the country continues to face funding challenges for disaster risk reduction and disaster response, and the heavily decentralized approach to disaster risk financing complicates challenges in enhancing disaster risk management. 

As it suggested, “federal and provincial governments have highly limited ex ante financing instruments in place for post-disaster response”. 

However, looking at public and private sector risk financing responses somehow misses the point. Climate change is the real threat here, and if we continue to be slow in our response then devastating floods will continue to displace and destroy communities not just in Pakistan, but around the globe.

The statistics are shocking. A recent article in Nature suggested that 1.81 billion people (23% of world population) are directly exposed to 1-in-100-year floods. Of these, 1.24 billion are located in South and East Asia, where China (395 million) and India (390 million) account for over one-third of global exposure. 

Low- and middle-income countries are home to 89% of the world’s flood-exposed people. Of the 170 million facing high flood risk and extreme poverty (living on under $1.90 per day), 44% are in Sub-Saharan Africa. Over 780 million of those living on under $5.50 per day face high flood risk.

The scale of the problem is huge; and it is one we urgently need to address.

Marcus Alcock, Editor

Emerging Risks