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Climate change is racist

Written By: - Date published: 12:10 am, September 6th, 2009 - 18 comments
Categories: climate change, racism - Tags:

Climate change is racist. Not literally of course, but in the sense that how people are affected by climate change is going to be largely determined by race. Those who are going to suffer the most are not “white”. From The Herald summary of a recent study:

The Climate Change Vulnerability Index (CCVI) released today by a global risks consultancy, Maplecroft, rated 166 countries on their capacity to mitigate risks to society and the business environment posed by changing patterns in natural hazards. Risks assessed included droughts, flooding, storms and sea level rises and the resulting effects on ecosystems. …

Norway (with 166 points), was the lowest ranked country in the CCVI and best equipped to address the challenges of climate change, because of low population density, excellent health-care and communications systems, good governance and a strong institutional framework. … The countries least at risk after Norway are Finland (165), Japan (164), Canada (163) and New Zealand (162). Other low risk countries include UK (155), USA (152) and Germany (151).

Africa had 22 of 28 “extreme risk” countries, with Somalia (1), Haiti (2), Afghanistan (3), Sierra Leone (4) and Burundi (5) rated most at risk.

So as usual the consequences of an upheaval are going to fall mainly on less developed countries and poor individuals. Talk about a rough deal. Africa never did get much of a share of the world’s wealth and resources, which were monopolised by developed (largely Western) countries. And now they get to bear the brunt of the environmental blow-back from our over consumption as well. It shouldn’t be this way.

18 comments on “Climate change is racist ”

  1. Marty G 1

    Interesting stuff. It’s important to remember that this is a measure of a country’s ability to withstand the impacts of climate change but that different countries are more exposed to risk than others, which this report does not address.

    When it comes to the risks of climate change, we’ve got to rate quite highly. The scenario of stronger more frequent el ninos, meaning droughts on the east coast, will hurt our food production. Any distribution to world trade and tourism will screw us, not only because we can’t export but because we don’t have the manufacturing base to replace imports.

    We’re set up to handle climate change better than some other countries in this relatively wealthy, sparsely populated, rainy, not low-lying country but we might be facing some particularly strong impacts from it.

    • r0b 1.1

      Excellent points Marty. I also found this snippet from The Herald summary an important warning:

      India (56) was the only emerging economy to be rated as high risk, due to high population density, increased security risk, poor resource security and concerns about human rights violations. India’s vulnerability is of particular concern to business because of its huge role in global supply chains

      Our geographical isolation is in most ways a blessing, but we’re pretty knackered when it comes to vulnerability in supply.

      • Draco T Bastard 1.1.1

        Actually, New Zealand has a fair amount of minerals and other natural resources. What we don’t have is enough to export them and then expect to be able to do anything afterward. China recognises that exporting all your resources in raw form is bad for the economy. Unfortunately, NACT don’t.

  2. Draco T Bastard 2

    Does the Climate Change Vulnerability Index take into account Peak Oil? Because if you don’t have the power to run all those institutions then they ain’t going to account for squat.

  3. jbc 3

    It would be interesting to see the report in more detail but unfortunately it looks like Maplecroft using the media to promote their spendy products and get some free advertising.

    r0b, I take your point that you are not calling a climate phenomenon racist,however I still think you’ve conflated correlation and causality when you say “how people are affected by climate change is going to be largely determined by race.

    Call me pedantic, but how you will be affected is determined by what you do and where you live. Subsistence farmer in arid climate: badly affected. School teacher in Vancouver: not so much affected (no matter what race you are). The stats on how different races will be affected will differ greatly – but it is geography rather than race that is the determining factor.

    To say that race is determines how you will be affected would mean that an African barista in Dunedin would be more likely to be adversely affected by climate change than a Norwegian one.

    Kenyan coffee growers might be affected…

    Marty and Draco: good points. Changes that upset economic balances will have secondary effects beyond borders.

    • r0b 3.1

      you are not calling a climate phenomenon racist,however I still think you’ve conflated correlation and causality

      Indeed jbc, I pondered those factors in making the claim, but decided to go ahead with it anyway, with a few qualifiers like “largely”. On the one hand an African living in NZ is of course no more affected than any one else here (other than greenfly’s point below). On the other hand most of the people living in Africa are Africans, and they are going to be hardest hit…

  4. jcuknz 4

    To coment not very seriously … of course global warming is racist … after all with hotter weather us whitey are going to get darker … like the darkies.

    But seriously I fear that without huge dikes, with raising sea levels, a good part of Dunedin is going to be flooded and access to the peninsula, except by the hill road, lost.

    I wonder if the new stadium will be paid for before it too gets flooded out?

  5. Tim Ellis 5

    Interesting points r0b.

    By that measure civil war is racist, human development is racist, and so is famine.

    I don’t think you’ve come up with a good argument for New Zealand to kill off its own economy, though, because it will have no effect on reducing global carbon emissions.

    • Jeremy 5.1

      Since after all these years you still haven’t realised this; I’ll put this as simply as possible
      climate change = killed off economy (guranteed, probability 100%)
      mitigation against climate change = slightly slowed economy but largely business as usual

    • r0b 5.2

      This is the kind of short term and un-ambitious mindset that makes you a conservative Tim.

      Sort term: You’re ignoring the cost of doing nothing. Jeremy made the point, but even before it gets to disaster level, doing nothing costs us more (globally 5 – 20% of GDP) than acting now (1% of GDP).

      Unambitious: You’re seeing the required response purely as threat, and not as opportunity. Compare with the words of a successful NZ entrepreneur. Why can’t more of you right wingers be as ambitious as that?

  6. greenfly 6

    jbc – your ‘African barista living in Dunedin’ is more likely than you or I to have relatives and friends living in a country that will suffer under climate change, so the original claim still stands, I believe.

  7. Gooner 7

    climate change = killed off economy (guranteed, probability 100%)


  8. burt 8


    Many of your posts are thought provoking – this is just gob shite. Stick to politics – oh hang on, talking about climate change is politics…. Sorry – as you were.

  9. infused 9

    Good to see everyones now a scientist.

    • Maynard J 9.1

      Should we all stick to acting and let the big boys deal with problems, so we do not strain our pretty little heads?

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