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The Poor and Climate Change

Climate change is considered, now, as a threat multiplier to human security. And, those who did the least to cause climate change would be the first in the line of fire: the poor and the weak, and communities that were subjected to discrimination.

To give you an idea of how severe is the poverty situation some facts are provided.  If children that suffer from malnutrition join their hands they could form a complete circle around the planet. In 2013, six out of the world’s seven billion people had a phone, while only 4,5 had toilets, according to a UN report.

People, whether they are rich or poor, consume water, food, and natural resources in order to remain alive. All economic activities are directly, indirectly based on natural resources and any pressure on natural resources can cause environmental stress. Nonetheless, there exist differences in the amount of consumption between the rich and the poor. The average footprint of someone in the richest 1% could be 175 times more compared to someone in the poorest 10%. Oxfam, an independent non-profit organization focused on the alleviation of global poverty,  stated that the richest 10% of the global population produces about 50% of the total global emissions. While half of the poor people hold only 10% accountable for the emissions, yet inhabit in countries that are most vulnerable to climate change.

Unequal impact

Global warming would mean a profound and unequal transformation in global economic growth. In which the northern countries can benefit and, south and equatorial states affected negatively once again. Taking into account that the majority of the poor world’s population live in low and middle-income countries. The increased frequency and intensity of extreme weather events like hurricanes, wildfires and droughts increase the risk of conflict, hunger and poverty.

While researches are exposing the future impact probabilities on countries, two-thirds of Africa experience extreme heat and highly variable rainfall during much of the year. Ironically, the continent is the least contributor to the greenhouse gas emissions that have thrown the climate off balance over and 50% of the extreme poverty population are in Africa. It is likely to be the continent most vulnerable to climate change and its agricultural production and food security will probably be severely compromised.

The IPCC, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, notify that crops of Africa and Latin-America are close to their maximum temperature of tolerance, already. The reason why small changes in temperatures may lead to reductions in agricultural performance. For example, a drought would mean less access to water and food resources.

Mercy Corps, a non-governmental, humanitarian aid organization, reveals that three out of four people living in poverty are dependant on agriculture

Photo: Mercy Crops Org.

to survive. Then, these effects become a real matter of life and death for these populations.

The vicious cycle of poverty continues. According to an article published in nature, the International Journal of Science estimates that the impact of warming in countries relies on their baseline temperatures. The report predicts developing countries would find problematic exit from poverty due to temperatures distortions. It claims that a major part of poor countries will fall by 70% in income in comparison to a state without climate change. Moreover, the authors inform about the adverse effect of temperature on labour supply, labour productivity and crop yield between 20° C and 30° C.

On the other side, countries with low average temperatures will benefit from warming as they will present better suitable weather for agriculture and farming and raise productivity. Especially, Europe could present advantageous outcomes.

The excuse

Countries have constructed the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development to address the complex challenges that lie ahead, from ending poverty and hunger and responding to climate change to creating resilient communities, achieving inclusive growth and managing the natural resources of the Earth in a sustainable way.

At the same time, as a paradox, some regions are the leading voices in the debate on the recognition of nature and its rights and acting against these goals. Developing countries considerate, on a larger scale, exploitation of natural resources to ensure financing government budgets. These economies are extracting their natural sources aiming a better income distribution to deal with inequality. Economic growth is necessary to eradicate poverty, yet not enough.


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