Many people around the world depend on fossil fuels for daily tasks and activities. However, emissions from non-renewable energy sources have harmful effects on health and the environment, with the most significant impacts felt in poverty-stricken countries. Nations with high consumerism, such as China, the United States and India, opt for fossil fuels due to cost-effectiveness and convenience in manufacturing. Over half of these countries’ energy is sourced from fossil fuels like coal, oil and solid biomass. Several developed nations, including Sweden, Germany and New Zealand, are shifting away from fossil fuels, transitioning to renewable energy. However, even though fossil fuels worsen poverty through extreme environmental and health impacts, countries in more underdeveloped areas lack the resources or funding to finance the transition to sustainable renewable energy sources.
Non-Renewable Energy in Numbers
According to a 2019 article by the Center on Global Energy Policy at Columbia University, the developing world uses more than half the world’s fossil fuels. The demand for energy has doubled over the past 15 years and is presumed to keep increasing at a 30% rate. This upward trend is helping wealthier countries drive their global trade flows but is worsening the climate crisis.
The combustion of fossil fuels releases substantial amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, contributing to heat retention and ozone layer depletion. This triggers adverse effects worldwide, including heightened droughts, more intense weather events and elevated temperatures, showing how fossil fuels worsen poverty.
The 2022 Global Climate Report from the National Centers for Environmental Information confirms a steady temperature rise of 0.14°F (0.08°C) annually since 1981. According to Forbes Magazine, these extreme weather events could push 122 million more people into extreme poverty within the next few years.
Impacts on the People
As extreme weather becomes more common, communities in impoverished areas suffer the most. These communities do not have the resources or finances to bounce back from the impacts of extreme weather events and the destruction of their homes, health and livelihoods.
In Somalia, the last five rainy seasons have been below adequate for harvesting and caring for livestock. This has resulted in a significant lack of food, causing 5 million Somalians to go hungry and 200,000 Somalians to experience starvation. Unfortunately, there is no clear end in sight to the droughts plaguing Somalia.
In 2022, Pakistan experienced a “monsoon on steroids,” as described by U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres. This extreme weather event lasted from June to October and caused flooding and landslides at a rate 10 times greater than the 30-year national average. Overall, the monsoon-related events affected 33 million people and destroyed 4.4 million acres of agricultural land and 800,000 livestock. Because of this monsoon, the number of people going hungry in Pakistan today has nearly doubled, with about 14.6 million Pakistanis enduring severe hunger.
South Sudan is also one of the countries most impacted by extreme weather events. The temperatures in South Sudan are rapidly increasing at a rate 2.5 times faster than the global average. The weather has caused South Sudan to overflow with water in some parts and shrivel up in others. These factors have contributed to severe hunger, affecting 7.7 million people out of the 12 million population.
Active Solutions to Reduce Emissions
Greenpeace has worked to make the more environmentally sustainable since 1971. By investigating, documenting and exposing environmentally destructive activities, Greenpeace raises public awareness about these issues. By increasing awareness of how fossil fuels worsen poverty and impact the most marginalized and disadvantaged people, Greenpeace is helping to reduce the prevalence of extreme weather events in impoverished nations.
Developing nations are also taking steps. Morocco, for instance, is witnessing a shift from fossil-fuel-based products to solar, wind and hydro-powered alternatives. In June 2021, the country’s leaders pledged to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 17-18% by 2030 and will substantially decrease government support for fossil fuels. With rising renewable electricity production, Morocco stands as a leading African country in the fight against extreme weather events.
Recognizing that global fossil fuel consumption contributes to extreme weather events that disproportionately affect the impoverished, affluent nations and impactful organizations must support the transition of developing countries to renewable energy.
– Nina Donlin