Climate Change is often discussed in relation to protecting the planet and the species, not necessarily that it is a growing non-traditional security threat. The discussions are moving in this direction though. Unfortunately, those who are most affected by the changes in the climate are the poor.

Many of the areas that see the most drastic responses to climate change are the developing nations, where the largest percentage of the world’s poor live. Increase in the violence of storms, flooding and droughts all destroy the lives of those working to survive.

Flooding of coastal areas due to climate change often causes some of the worst damage. In Ghana, sea levels are expected to flood 2/3 of the coastal lands. That leaves 25 percent of the population having to migrate in land or to other countries. Africa is not alone in this issue. Islands in the South Pacific and the coasts in Southeast Asia are being wiped out. Kiribati, a chain of 30-something islands, is at risk of being completely inundated by the Pacific by the end of the century.

These people who migrate become refugees of climate change. They go through the same issues as refugees of war. They live in squalor conditions, they have limited access to health care, they cannot find work, and they do not have adequate food and clean water.

Crop destruction occurs when the lands flood. In Asia, flooding damages 20 million hectares of rice every year. In an area that already has high malnutrition rates, this destruction contributes heavily to food insecurity. In Kiribati the flooding causes another issue: salinization of the fresh water sources. The island nation already has limited fresh water supplies. This problem alone could drive the inhabitants to migrate elsewhere.

Wealthy people in these threatened areas can move away from the afflicted areas, or afford to buy food and clean water, but those who are not, are stuck dealing with the side effects of climate change. When the wealthy people leave, there is less local money to use to fix solutions, and the remaining people must rely on governmental or international aid. This creates a large divide between the rich and poor within countries, as well as a divide between rich and poor countries, as the wealthy have access to water, food, and resources and the poor do not.

The United Nations Development Programme and the Global Environmental Facility have teamed together to begin to address the issue of climate change and health problems. They have invested 1.9 million dollars into Ghana alone to help reduce poverty caused by climate affects. In addition, they are working with 18 developing island nations. The projects they support are to help build climate sustainable infrastructure, to create green methods of production and agriculture, to introduce crops tolerant to floods and droughts, and to teach about water conservation among other steps. The UNDP has helped over 2 million people adapt to climate change, with the hopes that these people can continue to move forward out of poverty despite the climate change threat.

– Katherine Hewitt

Sources: UNDP 1, BBC 1, Bloomberg, BBC 2, UNDP 2
Photo: Scientific American

It’s not often that one hears a Tea Party conservative publicly supporting the use of the United States’ Federal Budget on foreign development aid. That’s what makes Rep. Tom Emmer’s, R-M.N., newfound support for the program both promising and surprising.

During a live online Q & A session held on May 12, Rep. Tom Emmer – whose conservative voting record includes challenges to Minnesota’s minimum wage and efforts to nullify the Affordable Care Act – described the ways in which his recent visit with recipients of U.S. foreign aid in Eldoret, Kenya influenced his perspective on the program.

“I have made the statement in the past that a dollar that we are spending for instance in Africa, in Kenya, is a dollar that we could probably be using at home to build a road or a bridge,” Emmer said. “Well, it’s not that simple.”

During his time in Eldoret, Emmer met with two dairy farmers who, with funding from USAID, improved their operation to such an extent that their increased income allowed them to accumulate enough money to send their three children to boarding school. “That bodes well for the future,” Emmer said, “and I guess I look at it this way: a dollar spent on that is a dollar that we won’t have to spend on additional bombs and bullets and God-forbid boots on the ground in the future.”

This sentiment is consistent with an argument commonly made by proponents of foreign development aid: investing in a greater quality of life for the world’s poor prevents them from looking for it in the form of violent extremist groups like ISIS or al-Shabaab.

The congressman also noted the potential benefits global poverty reduction holds for the U.S. economy. “Well, we need to have trading partners, both here within our boundaries, our borders, but [also] outside of our borders, because remember, 90% of the world’s future customers actually live outside of the United States,” Emmer stated. “We need to make sure that we’re constantly growing those markets so that we can realize a return of value, a valuable return on [our] products.”

Emmer’s change of heart is particularly encouraging given the staunch opposition to foreign aid among many leading Republicans, including presidential aspirant Rand Paul, who in 2012 argued the United States ought to eliminate foreign aid entirely. Indeed, this new stance is consistent with his recent deviation from the standard voting line of far right Republicans, a move that has earned him criticism from a number of his constituents.

That Rep. Emmer’s newfound attitude toward foreign aid so radically differs from that of more moderate Republicans like Paul shows that foreign aid doesn’t need to be an issue that is determined simply – and superficially – by party affiliation. A U.S. presence in impoverished nations, defined by effective economic assistance, creates opportunities for American companies abroad and increases the security of the United States by improving the lives of those whom extremist groups strive to recruit. These are outcomes that should appeal to Republicans and Democrats alike.

– Zach VeShancey

Sources: Think Progress, Business Week Think Progress Think Progress MPR News
Photo: University of Alaska Fairbanks

With the Alps reaching elevations beyond 15,000 feet, it is no wonder Switzerland sits at the top of this year’s list of happiest countries, produced by the 2015 World Happiness Report. While the country’s jocular vibes are great for its 8 million inhabitants, a closer look indicates impoverished individuals across the world should also be celebrating.

Since first being published in 2012, the World Happiness Report has delved into the intricacies of socioeconomic development. Turning the subjective nature of “happiness” into objective measures, the study reveals trends in the overall standard of living.

Using a scale that runs from 0 to 10, people in over 150 countries were surveyed by Gallup from 2012 to 2015. Real gross domestic product per capita, healthy life expectancy, having someone to count on, perceived freedom to make life choices, freedom from corruption and generosity were all gauged in the surveys.

“As the science of happiness advances, we are getting to the heart of what factors define quality of life for citizens,”  said John F. Helliwell, professor at the University of British Columbia and the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research. “We are encouraged that more and more governments around the world are listening and responding with policies that put well-being first. Countries with strong social and institutional capital not only support greater well-being, but are more resilient to social and economic crises.”

Switzerland, in its snowcapped glory, pulled out all the stops – winning first place. Iceland, Denmark, Norway and Canada followed close behind.

A transparent government, superb healthcare system and dedicated education sector are the driving forces behind happy lifestyles. Their 35.2-hour workweeks may also have a little bit to do with it.

Regardless, Switzerland spreads the socioeconomic joy when it comes to foreign aid. Though countries like Sweden and Luxembourg beat out the Swiss in terms of giving, the country’s government is aiming to meet applause-worthy goals.

In 2011, officials agreed to give approximately 0.43 percent of their gross national income, best known as GNI, to official international development aid. At the time, the U.S. was only contributing 0.2 percent of its GNI.

Now, as Switzerland strives for a greater role in global poverty reduction and sustainability, the benchmark is set at 0.5 percent.

“Switzerland is well-placed to become a more visible leader on development issues and can capitalize on its extensive experience on the ground to influence global policy in areas like conflict, fragility, food security and climate change,” said Eril Solheim of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.

In the wake of Nepal’s recent 7.8 magnitude earthquake, the Swiss delivered on their promises. Swiss Humanitarian Aid dispatched an integrative team of doctors, engineers, water specialists and logistics specialists to assess the damage.

Nationwide efforts raised $18.4 million, offered in the way of emergency aid and reconstruction projects.

“The fundraising day proves that major disasters strike a chord across the nation,” Swiss President Simonetta Sommaruga said. “[…] the Swiss population shows generous solidarity regardless of age, language or income.”

– Lauren Stepp

Sources: Spring, SWI, UNSDSN
Photo: Flickr