Climate gentrification is a process in which wealthier people fleeing from climate-risky areas spur higher housing prices and more aggressive gentrification in safer areas.
Climate-related disasters in 2018 alone displaced more than 1.2 million people. These extreme weather events—which will only increase in frequency as climate change worsens—can spur immediate gentrification in under-resourced communities.
Researchers have since concluded that hurricane damage was positively associated with the likelihood of a New Orleans neighborhood having gentrified 10 years after Katrina. This suggests that natural disasters can sometimes pave the way for gentrification, uprooting existing populations en masse and wiping out infrastructure.
It is estimated that over 800 million people will be at risk from the impacts of rising sea levels by 2050, concentrated among 570 coastal cities across the world.
In just the last two years, climate change has brought on an onslaught of disasters: more than 4 feet of rain in south Texas, 90-degree days in Alaska, and record-breaking wildfires that have destroyed homes and fragmented communities.
“In a country where the wealth inequality divide is getting worse, we have to pay attention to things that make this divide worsen. … Climate change is a threat accelerator. It acts upon existing social issues by accelerating its effect, because it adds stressors to our systems and environments,” said sustainability certificate graduate Linda Cheung, MBA ’17 and founder of the nonprofit Before It’s Too Late.