Climate crisis to destroy 167 million homes in next 20 years

ShelterBox reveals extent of ‘human habitat’ loss, urging PM and G7 leaders to find global solutions

09 June 2021

Press release - 9 June 2021


Supported by Professor Andrew Collins at Northumbria University, a new data forecast from disaster relief charity, ShelterBox, shows that if extreme weather events continue to increase at current rates, we face losing 8.35 million homes a year between now and 2040. That’s 167 million homes – the equivalent of all our homes in the UK wiped out six times or all of the homes in the US.

During the three days of the G7 summit in Cornwall, an estimated 69,000 homes could be lost to extreme weather, the equivalent of 1 in 4 of families in Cornwall being forced to flee.

The devastating loss of homes is a major impact of the climate crisis but the charity found people still think of animals and the natural world first. A ShelterBox-commissioned poll found that less than 10% of people in the UK visualise humans when they think of the effects of the climate crisis, with nearly half (43%) thinking of polar bears.

ShelterBox is calling for world leaders to do more to help communities around the world who are losing their homes to extreme weather events, such as storms and floods, which are becoming more powerful and destructive due to our changing climate.

The charity has a provocative billboard in Cornwall during the G7 summit reminding the Prime Minister that there’s no place like home, urging strong leadership for global solutions and more support for the millions of people losing their homes in the climate crisis.

Ahead of the G7 leaders arriving in Cornwall, a ShelterBox billboard in Falmouth is urging the Prime Minister to find global solutions to help combat ‘human habitat loss’ driven by the climate crisis. (The van will be moved as little as possible and emissions have been off set with Climate Care.) Photo: Adam Gasson/PA Wire

ShelterBox’s asks to the G7:

1) Commit to providing emergency shelter to communities all over the world facing devastating new disasters caused by our heating world.

2) Support longer-term projects to help countries afford disaster-resilient housing and sustainable livelihoods, as changing weather affects agriculture-dependent communities.

3) Ensure vaccines are not only affordable and available to all countries, but also support the logistics needed to get vaccines to every corner of the globe.

With the UK government hosting both the G7 summit and COP26 in November, Cornwall-based international disaster relief charity, ShelterBox, is urging world leaders to accelerate global solutions to global issues and recognise the devastating impact our changing climate is having on vulnerable communities, right now. The climate crisis is creating an unprecedented need for emergency shelter around the world as it intensifies extreme weather and worsens already complex conflict situations. ShelterBox is calling on the Prime Minister to show robust leadership and encourage world leaders to do more to support families displaced by disasters including floods, cyclones, hurricanes and drought.

 

83% increase in climate-related disasters

There has been an 83% increase in climate-related disasters across the last 20 years. These disasters have ripped up homes, destroyed food supplies and displaced millions of people. The data forecast uses the latest IDMC GRID displacement figures, which show 30 million people were displaced due to climate related extreme weather events in 2020. ShelterBox worked with Professor Andrew Collins, Professor of Disaster and Development at Northumbria University, to forecast what this increase could mean for homes lost in the next 20 years. If we continue to see climate related extreme-weather events increase at the same rate, the world faces losing nearly 167 million homes by 2040 – that’s the equivalent to all of the homes in the UK wiped out six times, or all of the homes in the US wiped off the planet.

 

Sanj Srikanthan, Chief Executive, says:When we think of climate change and habitat loss, we tend to think of the natural world first – polar bears on melting ice caps, or forests in flames. Those things are important, but we must recognise that increasingly extreme weather is having a devasting impact on people too. It is causing irreversible damage, robbing families of homes, livelihoods and loved ones.

ShelterBox provides essential shelter aid to help people rebuild their lives and repair their homes. Last year we supported families with almost 28,000 emergency shelters. Each of these homes is a starting point for them to rebuild and recover, but the need is still overwhelming. The number of displaced people is growing at a startling rate every year, and there is an unprecedented need for emergency shelter around the world.

 

Andrew Collins, Professor of Disaster and Development at Northumbria University, says:As the current state of climatic impacts already reveals, and as experienced by billions of people all over the world through the current pandemic, to ignore the warnings in the data complete with its uncertainties is to walk ill-prepared into catastrophic loss and damage. The direction of current travel is clear for all to see and drastic actions need to be taken now, using the G7 and COP26 negotiations to achieve the change we need.

“With displacement directly experienced from extreme weather events already increasing, the situation is further exacerbated by the cascading effects of climate change on regional instability and open conflict. The data cited here should be taken extremely seriously, now rather than any later.”

 

Human impact is being missed

The data shows that human habitat loss is one of the major impacts of climate change and highlights that an average of nearly 42 million people per year face the loss of their homes due to climate change related extreme weather events in the next 20 years (humanitarian standards assume an average of 5 people per home). By the year 2040 this figure could look as high as 54.9 million people in one year alone. However, the link between climate change and the loss of ‘human habitat’ doesn’t resonate as strongly with the public as the destruction faced by animals.

When the UK population was asked what they visualise when they think about climate change, only 8% think about a human home being destroyed, with nearly half (43%) thinking of polar bears homes melting away.

 

Disasters aren’t natural

The climate crisis is having dramatic effects, right now, on people around the world. ShelterBox has joined many in the humanitarian sector in refusing to call disasters ‘natural’ – both because human-driven climate change is making disasters more extreme, and because preventative action by governments and policymakers can seriously reduce the impact of environmental hazards on people’s lives.

 

11 million homes a year

In May, Cyclone Tauktae hit the west coast of India, becoming the most powerful storm to hit India’s west coast in the last 20 years. Just a year ago, Cyclone Amphan caused catastrophic damage in coastal areas of India and Bangladesh, destroying 1.7 million homes in India alone. On this current trajectory, ShelterBox estimates that over the next 20 years we could face up to 8.35 million homes being lost every year, with this rate looking to reach as high as 11 million homes a year by 2040.

 

Impact on UK homes

UK homes are also under threat from extreme weather events. There is ample evidence for the scale of risk for UK homes, the financial cost and the increased risk of extreme weather events, particularly flooding, caused by climate change.

According to UK government figures, extreme weather events and disasters are increasing in the UK and across the world. In the UK, 5 million properties are at risk of flooding from rivers or the sea – the 2015 to 2016 floods cost £1.6 billion alone.

Met Office research indicates that climate change has increased the risk of floods in England and Wales, such as those in Autumn 2000 (the wettest Autumn on record), by at least 20% and perhaps even up to 90%. The winters in 2013/14 and 2015/16 were two of the wettest on record, with widespread impacts during both seasons. A Met Office study has shown that an extended period of extreme winter rainfall in the UK, similar to that seen in winter 2013/14, is now about seven times more likely due to climate change.

So, even at a very conservative estimate of flooding like that seen in 2015/16 occurring five times over the next 20 years, the cost at 2015/2016 prices would be £8 billion by 2040.

 

Broadcaster and naturalist Steve Backshall, a supporter of the charity, says:Climate change is having a devastating impact on our earth, destroying resources and habitats across our natural world. With the climate crisis having such a profound impact on our environment and animals, it’s easy to forget the impact that its having on people too.

Across the world, people are being forced to flee unsafe, storm-damaged housing, or witnessing entire streets being washed away from them by flash floods. We all know the importance of having a place to call your own, and this is a right currently not being afforded to so many as a direct result of the climate crisis.

As a proud advocate for our environment and the protection of animals, I am delighted to be supporting ShelterBox in this next step in protecting our world, but this time, I’m fighting for the humans too.

 

To find out how you can support families who are losing their homes to the climate crisis, and to learn more about what ShelterBox does, go to https://www.shelterbox.org/

Ends

Photos credit Adam Gasson/PA Wire. More photos and interview opportunities available, please contact the ShelterBox Media Team.

Interview opportunities:  

Sanj Srikanthan, ShelterBox Chief Executive 

Andrew Collins, Professor of Disaster and Development at Northumbria University 

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