Global warming will have devastating consequences for our planet—particularly the less fortunate.
“Climate-change impacts are projected to slow down economic growth, make poverty reduction more difficult, further erode food security, and prolong existing and create new poverty traps,” says a just-released assessment by the Nobel-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
The underprivileged among us will be especially badly hit.
“Climate change is expected to have a relatively greater impact on the poor as a consequence of their lack of financial resources, poor quality of shelter, reliance on local ecosystem services, exposure to the elements, limited provision of basic services, and their limited resources to recover,” the report states.
For instance, Bangladesh and eastern India, which already suffer the vast majority of cyclone deaths globally, can expect increased devastation in the years ahead.
“On the east coast of India, clusters of districts with poor infrastructure and demographic development are also the regions of maximum vulnerability,” the report says. “Hence, extreme events are expected to be more catastrophic in nature for the people living in these districts.”
To understand the real-life consequences of global warming on a poor vulnerable country, read the heart-breaking story on Bangladesh in Saturday’s New York Times. Within the next four decades, this low-lying, crowded country of more than 100 million people will likely lose an astonishing one-fifth of its land, displacing an estimated eighteen million of its citizens. The slums of its capital, Dhaka, are already burgeoning with climate refugees.
“There are a lot of places in the world at risk from rising sea levels, but Bangladesh is at the top of everybody’s list,” Indiana University Professor Rafael Reuveny tells the New York Times.
Island nations such as the Maldives, Kiribati, and Vanuatu may actually be completely submerged in the not-too-distant future.
All this is a consequence largely because of the emissions by the United States and European countries since the dawn of industrialization.
“The role of the industrial countries is paramount in having contributed to human-induced climate change,” Rajendra Pachauri, head of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, told me some years ago.
And the West continues to have an outsized negative role. A New York Times chart last year showed that while the United States is not too far from the top (coming in at twelve) of the list for per capita CO2 emissions among more than 200 nations (oil-rich and tiny countries occupy the top spots), China is sixty-third and India is a lowly 136th.
But this hasn’t caused the richer nations to develop much of a conscience. Instead, the New York Times reports that the United States led a move to get deleted from the executive summary of the just-issued climate change report a World Bank figure that $100 billion would be required annually to mitigate climate change. (In 2012, a measly $400 million was spent on such efforts.) In global talks in Warsaw last November, the richer nations nixed any notions of a legally binding commitment to help poorer countries.
The Obama Administration is making half-hearted efforts to raise money for such a fund, but even that will face a roadblock in a know-nothing, do-nothing Congress.
The less-privileged nations are being left on their own to sink—literally.