We’re seeing the impacts of climate change across the world. Human activity, like burning fossil fuels, is causing the planet to warm with many different and scary consequences. In this two part series from our pals at 10:10, we’re looking at how climate change affects different parts of the world. First, the global south.
Climate change isn’t just scary and dangerous. It’s also really unjust. The people who are the least responsible for causing climate change are the most vulnerable to its impacts. The 50 least developed nations of the world have contributed only 1% of global greenhouse emissions.
But, people living in the global south often feel the impacts much more severely, can’t respond as easily and don’t have the resources to recover afterwards. Essentially, for people already struggling to find food, decent housing or good medical care, climate change is making things even harder.
For many people who rely on farming, climate change is already having significant impacts. The regular turn of the seasons is becoming more unpredictable. If the rains don’t come when the farmers expect, harvests will be smaller, or fail completely. When this happens, those who are poorest find it hardest to recover.
And when farmers produce less food, prices go up and people living in towns and cities can’t afford it. Those already struggling to feed their families suffer even more.
Some farmers are working to be more resilient in the face of climate change. They are planting different kinds of crops which deal better with drought, trying new farming methods to use water more efficiently, planting salt-resistant seeds in coastal areas and farming livestock that copes better in heat waves.
More than half the world’s population live near the coast. Climate change is making flooding, sea level rise and storm surges worse. When those happen, it causes devastation for the people in the firing line.
Housing in the global south is more likely to be poorer quality, so it’s less able to stand up to a battering from extreme weather like hurricanes. It can be a negative spiral - if someone’s home and livelihood are destroyed by a natural disaster, they don’t have the money to rebuild a decent house. So they will be much more vulnerable the next time a disaster comes.
Many don’t even know extreme weather is coming - which is why early warning measures can make a huge difference. Local radio announcements, and text message alerts are helping people get prepared for flooding in Nepal, and in Pakistan women identified the need for better street lights so they could evacuate at night when floods were rising.
Climate change is making natural disasters more frequent and more severe. Big disasters like floods or cyclones mean many people are forced to flee their homes. In the immediate aftermath of a disaster, sanitation can be poor, which means diseases spread quickly. If roads and other infrastructure are damaged by the disaster, it’s harder to get doctors and medicine to those who need them.
In rural areas, shrinking sources of fresh water, droughts, and changes to the water cycle mean it’s harder to get hold of clean water. Flooding can also contaminate clean water sources. And all of these are being made worse by climate change. Children are especially vulnerable to diseases spread by drinking dirty water.
In densely populated cities, air pollution is a real problem. Cities with lots of old cars driving round, and coal fired power stations belching out fumes can lead to serious heart and lung problems - from asthma to heart disease.
Beijing is well known for terrible air quality thanks to masses of coal burning the fuel factories. The government has made a huge effort to switch coal to natural gas and renewables, which are much cleaner and cut the number of toxins in the air by half in 2017.
Climate change is already having a big impact in the global south, and it’s set to get worse. But we humans do have the skills, knowledge and time to tackle it - if we act fast. There’s plenty you can do to combat climate change in your own life, and ways you can bug the people in power to do the same.
This blog post was written by our climate activist pals over at 10:10.