Global Warming and Poverty


Two degrees Celsius. It may seem a small number, but many scientists claim that it is the limit for an increase in global temperatures before the changes become catastrophic and irreversible.

A new report by the World Bank, Turn Down the Heat: Climate Extremes, Regional Impacts and the Case for Resilience, outlines the potential effects of a 2C (3.6F) warming of temperatures, a number that may well be reached by 2030. These effects include droughts, floods, sea-level rise, and fiercer storms as global climate change affects weather patterns. The report further highlights the effects that will be felt in developing regions, as in many cases, these areas will be the hardest hit.

For example, with increased heat and the resultant droughts, sub-Saharan Africa could see a loss of 40% of the arable land currently used to grow the staple crop maize. Additionally, large swathes of land used for grazing could suffer. These combined effects could lead to a drastic increase in the number of people malnourished in the region.

In the Indian subcontinent and southeast Asia, climate change could affect seasonal monsoon patterns. The consequences of this would be twofold: an increase in severe flooding, as seen recently in India (http://thestar.blogs.com/worlddaily/2013/06/cataclysmic-flooding-in-india-sign-of-global-warming-warns-new-study-.html), and an adverse impact on farmers who rely on the steady monsoon rains for their crops. While weather patterns are always variable between months and years, an increase in the volatility of the system could lead to extreme food shortages as crops fail.

A further result of drought and flooding and resultant food shortages could be an increase of the rural population moving to cities. This influx would strain informal settlements in urban areas, and lead to increases in health and sanitation issues in areas already ill-equipped to deal with them. Furthermore, the conditions in these informal settlements mean that large numbers of people are more vulnerable and exposed to extreme weather conditions like flooding and heat waves.

The silver lining here though is that these predicted results are not inevitable. There is still time to slow, and perhaps even halt, the effects of global climate change. But it will take a concerted effort by those developed nations who contribute the most to harmful emissions. The World Bank is currently stepping up efforts to both assist developing countries with adaptation to climate change, and also to promote initiatives aimed at cutting greenhouse gas emissions.

While developed countries contribute the most to climate change, the harsh reality is that the majority of them won’t see the worst of the consequences. Rather, those who will be most affected by the changes, are those who can least afford it.

– David Wilson
Source: The Guardian, Act Media, World Daily News
Photo: The Guardian