Impacts

World’s Poor Most Susceptible to Climate Change

African Children

Sustainability is predicated on predictability. How we build our homes, grow and find the food we eat, and locate the water we drink are all based on climatic consistency. Knowing how much rainfall to expect each year dictates crop selection, flood zones, drainage systems, and water reserves. Knowing what temperatures to expect dictates how we construct our homes and what health concerns to consider. Changes in this predictability can have tremendous impacts on how we live and survive. Affluence enables adaptability, and its absence results in susceptibility.

Two reports released this week emphasized the susceptibility of the world’s poor to the impacts of climate change, one with a global focus, the other very specific to the poor of the United States.

The first, entitled “The Anatomy of a Silent Crisis” and released by the Global Humanitarian Forum, an organization founded and led by former head of the United Nations Kofi Annan, attributes 300,000 deaths and about $125 billion in primarily agricultural economic losses each year to global warming, with the impacts most heavily felt in the developing world. In addition, the report says that climate change significantly affects the lives of 325 million people around the world, a number expected to double by the year 2030. Rising sea levels, desertification, and shifting rainfall patterns are impacting access to food and drinkable water.

“The first hit and worst affected by climate change are the world’s poorest groups. Ninety-nine percent of all casualties occur in developing countries. A stark contrast to the one percent of global emissions attributable to some 50 of the least developed nations.”
– Kofi Annan, President, Global Humanitarian Forum

The second, “The Climate Gap, Inequalities in how Climate Change hurts Americans and How to Close the Gap”, a joint effort by the University of Southern California and the University of California Berkeley, focuses on the increased mortality rate of African-Americans in Los Angeles due to heat waves and the majority population of Latinos in the areas of Los Angeles and its surrounds with the worst air quality in the country.

Associating health concerns with climate change has been and continues to be a hotly debated subject. And while no single weather event and no exact death count can be specifically attributed to climate change, it is the absence of predictability associated with climate change that invariably impacts those least responsible for emissions and least able to adapt to its influence.

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