Global Warming and Poverty

Although global warming affects every single person in the world to some degree, the impact of global warming is much more severe for those people living in conditions of poverty for a number of reasons. This inequality in terms of the impact of global warming on the world’s poorest is ironic when you consider that, according to the United Nations, developing nations suffer 99% of the casualties caused by climate produced natural disasters whilst the poorest 50 countries only produce 1% of total the greenhouse gas emissions which it is believed causes global warming in the first place.

So why are poorer countries and people disproportionately impacted on by global warming? Here are a few of the reasons:

  • Extreme weather conditions: Heat waves produce crop withering conditions. Water supplies dry up, plagues of insects and pests proliferate etc. – all of which results in much lower crop yields and inevitably higher prices.
  • Extreme precipitation: Unnatural levels of precipitation lead to the flooding of massive areas of cultivated land which again reduces the levels of food produced in regions that already probably suffer from inadequate food supplies.
  • Increased malnutrition: The result of decreasing food supplies is inevitably increasing levels of malnutrition in those areas affected by the adverse climatic conditions. In addition, extreme weather conditions can make it much more difficult to get relief supplies into the affected areas which further exacerbate the problem.
  • Mass domestic migration: As areas are increasingly impacted by climatic variations, people are forced to move from their homes to other areas – very often into urban areas which are ill-equipped to take in large swathes of new inhabitants. This results in the growth of squalid slum conditions where disease spreads quickly and economic opportunities are scarce.
  • Mass international migration: The poorest and most desperate are inevitably drawn to those countries which seem to offer the best economic opportunities – but those wealthier countries are often unable or unwilling to accept large numbers of economic migrants from other countries and cultures. This problem is then compounded by the addition of millions of refugees from war zones all of whom also want to migrate to developed countries. As a result we have seen the proliferation of refugees camps around the world where people live for long periods in very poor, primitive conditions.
  • Interruption to education: The way out of the poverty trap is often through education but as the poorest (who already have the most limited access to education) are forced to migrate, their chances of getting any education at all diminish rapidly.
  • Population growth: Poverty massively reduces access to any form of birth control and this leads to rising populations in areas which can least support those increases. The increased population adds increased stress on the environment and so the cycle continues.

As you can see, the impact of global warming is alarming. In developed countries people are encouraged to lower the thermostat in their houses and boil their kettles less but the consequences of global warming on those suffering from poverty is often a matter of life and death.

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