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Nonfiction in response to Climate Action
January 2019

The Crucial Link Between Climate Change and Poverty

By Amrita Bhasin
CC Image Courtesy of CIFOR

From 1880 to 2012, average global temperature increased by 0.85°C. As many of us around the country have experienced from the recent fires and hurricanes, climate change is affecting everyone. Living in Northern California, the smoke caused our school and activities to temporarily shut down.

Something given less attention is the way in which climate change is linked to poverty. World Resources Institute reports that climate change could force “100 million people into extreme poverty” in the next twelve years. Consider that many of the world’s poorest people are increasingly reliant on the natural environment for food and shelter. “In Africa, for example, agriculture accounts for two thirds of the workforce and around half of household income and food… estimates suggest that 150,000 people are dying each year” due to climate change (Health Poverty Action). Agriculture is extremely sensitive because of weather dependency. An additional 100 million people are projected to be deemed impoverished by 2030 “due to rising food prices” (National Geographic). Health issues such as malaria are contributing factors. “The World Bank report says a small rise in temperatures “could increase the number of people at risk for malaria by up to 5 percent, or more than 150 million more people affected” (National Geographic). It’s important to also consider water scarcity, particularly in times of natural disasters. Further data shows that poor people tend to spend more of their income on food at approximately 60% compared to 10% by the wealthiest (National Geographic). One bad harvest, famine or drought can be detrimental. Climate disasters such as flooding may cause millions of people to be displaced or lose their homes. A lack of sturdy and dependable infrastructure in less populated and more rural areas is another concern.

For now, the United Nations has pledged “$100 billion annually by 2020 for mitigation actions.” Throughout the climate change debate, it is imperative that we consider all populations affected, not just those closest to us.

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