resilience reporter

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Natural Disasters Worsen Inequality

Business leaders waking up to extreme risks posed by climate change

The World Economic Forum Global Risks Report 2019 shines a light on a topic that Zurich has been calling attention to for a long time.

The report’s Global Risks Perception Survey identified “extreme weather” as the top risk in terms of likelihood over a 10-year horizon and placed it at No. 3 in terms of impact over the next 10 years.  While there are a multitude of problems facing the world today — and 30 distinct global risks that survey respondents were asked to consider — it is not surprising that extreme weather has risen to the top and remained there for the third consecutive year.

What would be surprising at this time is if the collective global community did not respond with a sense of extreme urgency to address this persistent yet evolving risk…


What the Camp Fire Revealed

After losing their home in Magalia in the Camp Fire, Robin Tompkins and her son, Lukas, line up for a free meal in a makeshift evacuation center in Chico

After losing their home in Magalia, California, in the Camp Fire, Robin Tompkins and her son, Lukas, line up for a free meal at a makeshift evacuation center in Chico, California, on November 16, 2018.Terray Sylvester / Reuters

Natural disasters are equalizing forces. Fires torch the homes of the rich and the poor alike. Hurricanes destroy cruise ships as well as decade-old cars. Earthquakes level cities, affecting everyone within. But natural disasters are also polarizing forces. Income and wealth shape who gets hit; how much individuals, insurers, nonprofits, and governments are willing and able to help; and who recovers, as well as to what extent.

That dynamic is now evident in Paradise, California, after the Camp Fire, much as it was in Houston after Harvey, Puerto Rico after Maria, New Jersey and New York after Sandy, New Orleans after Katrina, and so many other places after so many other disasters, small and large. Across the country, two of the most potent forces in American life—climate change, which portends more frequent and more violent natural disasters, and social stratification—are colliding. And the former stands to make the latter far, far worse…


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