BOSTON — Poverty rates around the world have dropped significantly in recent years due to continued and increased efforts from developed countries that have the resources to improve living conditions in other nations. However, sending food, purifying water, administrating vaccines and all the other aid that is being given to impoverished nations will not be enough if the world does not take a stance against climate change. The effects of global warming on the climate will worsen living conditions around the world through means such as property damage, displacement, changes in agriculture, access to natural resources and increased disease.
Rising Sea Levels
With water levels expected to rise about two feet in the next 100 years, many island and coastal communities will be negatively impacted. Two feet may not seem like a lot but it will cause flooding in some areas, which can lead to property and infrastructure damage and a need for many people to relocate inland. Relocation involves completely changing one’s way of life, including a new home and a new job, and many people are sure to end up out of work and homeless, similar to what often happens after homes are destroyed in flooding brought on by storms.
Scientists frequently cite global warming’s effect on an area’s climate. This means long droughts in some places, while others experience extensive amounts of rain. Changing environments will lead to differentiating agriculture and people will be forced to adapt to their new climate and learn what can and cannot grow there. Climate change is also causing more violent weather, such as hurricanes, which can destroy crops. For example, climate change in Brazil is expected to cause agricultural output per 10,000 sq. meters to decrease by 18 percent in the next 25 years. A decline in agricultural productivity will lead to an increase in food costs, and this will disproportionately affect the poor who will not have the extra money to spend on the food they need to survive.
Access to Water and Natural Resources
People in developing nations rely more heavily on local, natural resources than people in first world countries where water, fish and meat are shipped in from all over the world. Increased temperatures affects the climates where fish and animals live, and may cause them to die or travel elsewhere. This would have huge impacts on the hunting and fishing industry, as well as negatively impact the economy and amount of food available to people in developing nations.
Many diseases are climate sensitive, and flourish in warm, tropical environments. Such diseases include malaria, dengue fever and cholera. As temperatures increase, especially in warmer climates where these diseases already occur, the rates of infected individuals will go up. Additionally, because poverty will be increasing due to such aforementioned factors as rising sea levels and decreased farming, fishing and hunting, it will be even more difficult for the world’s poor to receive preventative vaccines or treatment for such diseases.
A changing climate sets the entire world out of balance; every country will be impacted by the changes that have already begun to take place, but it is the impoverished countries that will have the most difficult time adapting to the new world we are creating for ourselves. Everyone can make a difference in slowing global warming through simple actions such as recycling, making use of alternative energy (such as energy efficient light bulbs,) turning off lights and taking shorter showers.
– Taylor Lovett
Sources: The World Bank, The United Sates Environmental Protection Agency, Ministry of Natural Resources, Harvard School of Public Health