A Climatic World of Poverty
By Ashley Chon
Though 74 of the world’s poorest countries account for less than one tenth of the global greenhouse gas emissions, these same countries are impacted most by climate change.
The United States and China contribute the most to global warming and climate change but developing countries scattered throughout Southeast Asia and Africa such as the Philippines and Madagascar take the brunt of the damage. Although poverty rates have dropped over the past few years, projections say that climate change can put almost 130 million people in poverty over the next ten years.
As of now, the UN’s first goal for sustainable development is to eliminate poverty. Continuous research has been done to determine why developing countries are taking on the most burden. The accumulation of current data has revealed that geography, agriculture, and the impact of developed nations may be some of the main reasons for this inequality.
Many developing countries are located in geographically unstable grounds such as fault lines, extremely dry regions, or extremely cold regions with delicate environments. Due to the unstable geography, climate change impacts are tremendous and are difficult to recover from for these developing countries.
Fiji, a small country the size of Massachusetts located in Oceania, is ranked as one of the countries that are most affected by climate change. The damage from the constant cyclones on the tropical island country put it under constant reconstruction. However, with losses of over 120 million dollars due to the damage and a fall in per capita GDP of 1.14%, Fiji still struggles to become the country it once was.
Another developing country, Bangladesh, faces similar issues with the loss of almost $3.72 billion due to 185 extreme weather events as of 2019. In addition, as global warming continues to cause sea levels to rise, Bangladesh is estimated to lose 11% of its land by 2050 because of rapidly rising sea levels projected to surge over 19 inches. This could lead to one out of every seven people in Bangladesh to be displaced from their homes. While coastal communities and island nations are among those facing the highest risk associated with the climate crisis, other developing nations around the world face similar problems.
Rest of the World
In Latin America and Asia, melting ice caps and glaciers have caused an increase in the risks of Glacial Lake Outburst Floods (GLOF). Not only does this cause countries to lose millions of dollars to damage, but in places losing these glaciers, the inhabitants are also losing one of their main sources of clean freshwater. In Africa, due to sharp spikes in temperature, countries such as Zimbabwe, Zambia, and Malawi have experienced lower lake levels. These lakes are crucial for countries in Africa who already experience severe shortages in water supply. As climate change worsens, all these countries face a larger threat on the well-being of their citizens and their economy.
In many of these developing countries, agriculture is the main source of employment, livelihood, and income for 50-90% of the population. This heavy reliance on agriculture becomes a bane as the effects of climate change put the agriculture industry in peril.
For instance, Southern Africa now has longer dry seasons and more unpredictable rainfall which has reduced agricultural production and forced people to change cultural traditions. The extreme weather conditions that climate change causes also makes it extremely difficult for farmers to survive.
Recent studies have shown that about 78% of the world’s poor population live in rural areas and rely on agriculture in order to make a living and put food on the table. However, this is not the only way agriculture impacts poverty rates. As crop yields decrease, food prices will also rise. Studies predict that an additional quarter of a billion people will be in poverty by 2022 for this reason.
Oftentimes, developed nations such as the United States and China impact developing countries and poverty rates indirectly.
China releases more than 10,065 million tons of CO2 while the United States releases 5,416 million tons of CO2 every year into the globally shared atmosphere. The large-scale pollution has caused negative effects in developing nations including species becoming extinct or endangered, citizens developing health issues, and extreme weather conditions. However, developed nations have also been hurting developing nations through more direct methods.
Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley reports that richer countries have been throwing garbage into her country and telling her to clean it up.
“It is unjust and immoral. It is wrong,” Mottley said at the United Nations Climate Change Summit. Developing countries like Barbadoes have been asking richer countries to compensate and contribute to a loss damage fund.
“Providing finance for loss and damage is the very least that wealthy countries can and should do,” says Raeed Ali, a climate activist from Fiji and a member of the Loss and Damage Youth Coalition.
“But to do this, they will have to acknowledge that they are responsible for this. And I think that is something they are not willing to do.” Ali may be right–developed countries have still done little to compensate for the damage they have caused.
It is well known that climate change is impacting the economy globally whether it be a developed nation or a developing nation. Being able to stop climate change and its impact on poverty is a one country effort but rather the acceptance that climate change is something that will come back to bite every corner of the globe.
It is time to extend a helping hand to the developing countries who are impacted the most yet impact the least and struggle for decades on end to recover.