The COVID-19 pandemic has knocked the global economy on its heels and drawn attention away from the climate crisis. Unfortunately, the devastating impacts of climate change are not waiting for this pandemic to end, but instead continuing in parallel. Coastal cities in the developing world are at particular risk as their resilience to combat climate change is further eroded in a landscape fundamentally altered by COVID-19. In this environment, decision makers must have the foresight to make climate smart investments.
The responses to this virus in many developing nations threaten individuals’ health and economic security. For the 85 percent of Africans who live on less than $5.50 per day, work stoppages and quarantine are further eroding their livelihoods. For these workers, social distancing and staying home are often impossible. Especially at risk are residents of coastal cities, many of whom are living in densely populated informal settlements along the water’s edge.
Science has shown that climate change is causing hurricanes to become stronger, thus wreaking more havoc on cities and displacing more people. In 2019, approximately 22 million people were displaced by weather events. It was one of the worst years in recorded history. Last month, Cyclone Harold tore through several countries in the Pacific, and there are growing concerns that COVID-19 could disrupt efforts to help the survivors and rebuild livelihoods. As the pandemic draws financial resources and human capacity away from climate resilience efforts it will further exacerbate long-term economic and food insecurity. This may also increase the risk of political instability as leadership vacuums, popular resistance, and debt crises converge.
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