California’s climate refugees: Counting the human cost of weather-related events

California’s climate refugees: Counting the human cost of weather-related events
California's wildfires have ravaged tens of thousands of homes in recent years. One such fire, dubbed “Camp Fire” after where it originated, roared through the town of Paradise in 2018 and killed 85 people, making it one of the state’s deadliest and most destructive.

It forced nearly 50,000 people to flee, including Mr Nicolas Gioia. "At about 8 o'clock I got a call from my significant other and she said pack everything up. This is not a drill. Time to go,” Mr Gioia told CNA. Today, like many others whose homes were destroyed in that fire, he still finds himself in the neighbouring town of Chico, trying to get back on his feet.

While California seems especially susceptible to wildfires, Mr Gioia believes no place is safe from such natural disasters.

“We've been educated on it in the past few years that, you know, climate change is a real thing and it's affecting, you know, the way fires happen. And it's like the devastation from these fires is just... it's insane,” he said.

Mr Gioia is among a growing number of climate refugees in California and around the world.

Since the Camp Fire, California's wildfires have become even bigger, fuelled by drought conditions, which have led to an extended annual fire season. The two most destructive seasons on record in California were in the past three years.

According to the United Nations, an average of 21.5 million people have been displaced every year since 2008 as a result of weather-related events. That figure is expected to grow as climate change causes more severe and unpredictable weather in the coming years.

The influx of people who lost their homes in the Camp Fire, as well as other blazes, has inflamed tensions in Chico. Like many American cities, it is dealing with homelessness and record-high housing costs.
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