Climate change and poverty
The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) confirmed in 2014 that global temperatures are increasing, sea-levels are rising and rainfall patterns are changing.
Climate change magnifies the risk of disasters everywhere, particularly in parts of the world where people are already poor and vulnerable and where extreme weather events tend to occur.
Prolonged droughts, shorter and more intense rainy seasons and unpredictable cyclones are just some of the impacts of climate change. In extreme cases, countries will permanently lose territory to climatic disasters and rising sea levels. In some areas land, property, ecosystems and communities will be affected to such an extent that a return to normal life will not be possible.
Where the impacts of climate change are already being felt, the world’s poorest people are experiencing the effects with devastating consequences. Often, these include areas where ecosystems and people’s ability to make a living are highly sensitive to changes in climate. Subsistence farmers who rely on regular weather patterns for growing crops depend on the environment for food and income: a warmer climate can mean less food with which to feed their families, or to sell at market. For farmers in the world’s poorest communities, the need to adapt to a changing climate is then made even more difficult by poverty, poor governance and unequal distribution of resources and power.
Women and climate change
Women are more vulnerable to the effects of climate change than men—primarily as they make up the majority of the world’s poor, and are often responsible for providing food and water for their families. Climate change and changing seasons can often mean fewer traditional food sources and water supplies, along with higher prices. Yet, despite their responsibilities as primary caregivers, women are often excluded from decision-making around their family’s finances.
It is important to remember that women are not only especially vulnerable to climate change, they are also an essential part of the solution. They play vital roles in helping their communities build resilience to the changing climate. Women often have knowledge, not only of their households, but also of the communities in which they live. Plus they are more likely to share the benefits they receive with their families, and are more likely to make decisions which will help reduce the future risks of the impacts of climate change.
Empowering women and achieving gender equality are important goals in themselves, as well as being vital to managing climate change and creating a sustainable future.
‘Climate change threatens to undermine decades of work to reduce poverty. We must all act with urgency to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in line with the scientific evidence, or we face a frightening future. At the same time, hundreds of millions of the women, men and children who live in extreme poverty are already feeling the effects of climate change and need increased assistance.’
Dr. Julia Newton-Howes, CEO CARE Australia
Adaptation and risk mitigation
Adaptation and risk mitigation means anticipating the negative effects of climate change and taking appropriate action and measures to reduce or minimise the impact and the damage they can cause. It has been shown that early, well planned action saves money and lives.
For organisations like CARE, examples of adaptation measures include: using scarce water resources more efficiently; building homes and shelter that will survive future climate conditions and extreme weather events; building flood defences in flood-prone areas and helping communities to grow drought-tolerant crops.
Learn more by reading the case study below and introducing some of the individuals CARE works with to your class.