The Tragedy of Climate Change

One of the great tragedies of climate change is that extreme weather events and unpredictable patterns disproportionately affect the world’s poor.  This includes nations like the Philippines but also the poor in the United States.  To understand why this happens we must examine the geography of climate change impacts.

Nations that are near or below the equator will experience desertification and extreme storms.  Sea levels in these regions will also face an above average rise.  Coastal areas that are already vulnerable will experience more frequent flooding.  Northern Africa and parts of the Middle East will become even warmer.

Examining the demographics of these regions shows that it is the world’s poorest populations that are the inhabitants.  The poor generally cluster around low-lying flood zones and dry rural areas.  These places have poor drainage facilities, no storm surge protections and no public services.

Some estimates suggest that by 2050, 200 million people will have to migrate each year due to loss of land and hunger.

Not surprisingly, once these disadvantaged areas are hit with a major storm or drought, they are the least capable of mitigating and adapting.  This pushes the developing country back down the ladder.  For example, the Philippines loses 5% of their GDP every year due to storms.

The Climate Change Vulnerability Index (CCVI) created by Maplecroft analyzes social, environmental and economic factors to give a rating to 193 countries.  Each country was assessed on criteria of climate change phenomena, adaptation capability and patterns in population migrations, development, agriculture, conflict and natural resources.  The CCVI found that 9 out of 10 countries with extreme risk are in sub-Saharan Africa and East Asia.

Furthermore, by 2025, 31% of global economic output will be produced in countries with extreme or high-risk designations.  This includes countries like India, China, Thailand and Vietnam who currently demonstrate significant growth.  The economic impacts should provide incentive for the international business community to finally join with governments to create sustainable climate change solutions.

The developed nations must recognize that the people in these high-risk nations are future consumers.  Preemptive investments in poor nations today will give these people a chance to adapt and become resilient against climate change threats.  Instead of spending money to rebuild, these nations can continue to progress towards economic stability and better quality of life.

Sunny Bhatt

Sources: New York Times, Maplecroft, Think Progress, Oxfam
Photo: United Nations Development Program