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Climate Change and Poverty


We all know that climate change is rapidly altering the world we live in. The effects of climate change, including higher temperatures, longer droughts, stronger storms, devastating fires, increased health risks, and food insecurity, among others, now impact all of us in some way. The economic cost of adapting to climate change or mitigating its effects, or recovering from disasters fueled by climate change, is unaffordable for most at-risk communities and less developed nations. Ultimately, lower income communities often experience the greatest effects of climate change and yet have the fewest resources to address those effects–the primary disparity addressed by climate justice.


Climate change affects agriculture

The effects of climate change, especially higher temperatures, droughts and severe storms, affect the ability to produce food as well as its quality and nutritional value. In Arctic regions, the changes in the snow and ice disrupt the residents ability to herd, fish and gather their food. While in other regions, continuous flooding or drought destroys crops. Climate change’s impact on agriculture puts in danger the lives and livelihood of poverty-stricken communities around the world leading to food insecurity. The United Nations estimates that in 2020 approximately 800 million people around the world faced hunger.


Climate change and water scarcity

Only 0.5 percent of the water on Earth is usable freshwater and according to the United Nations, about two billion people don’t have access to it. These numbers are expected to change as a result of climate change with the availability of freshwater decreasing. Water scarcity also affects food supply, with 70 percent of the world’s freshwater being used in agriculture. The most vulnerable are poor communities that see their access to water for agriculture, hygiene and survival disappearing, and they lack sufficient resources to rebuild food production.


Climate change and natural disasters

One of the most visible effects of climate change is the increase of natural disasters and the economic crises they cause. The intensity and frequency of storms and hurricanes has increased as well as the damages in their aftermath. Flooding disasters have increased by 134 percent this century and droughts now last longer and affect more areas. The cost of rebuilding after each of these disasters is extremely high. After Hurricanes Irma and María the Government of Puerto Rico estimated it would need $132 billion dollars to rebuild. The United States estimates that each drought event costs approximately $10 billion dollars, and the cost of last summer’s floods in Pakistan were estimated at $40 billion dollars.


When severe storms destroy infrastructure, governments must spend money to rebuild vs investing in growing their economies. For the poor and people living in less developed countries, extreme droughts and severe flooding can destroy people’s only means of subsistence, and rebuilding is often cost-prohibitive.


Climate change creates refugees

According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), extreme weather events have displaced twice as many people as violence or conflict. Some of the communities affected are small island nations such as Kiribati, Vanuatu and Fiji that have had to move, or have plans to move, whole communities or even the country, to new locations as a result of sea levels rising.


UNHCR estimates that from 2010 on, approximately 21.5 million people a year have had to relocate as a result of climate change and the increase in natural disasters. While the World Bank estimates that by 2050 over 140 million people will be displaced for the same reasons. The most affected communities are those that don’t have the resources to adapt or recover.


Climate change and the global health challenge

Climate change also affects the health of the world’s most vulnerable. Increased heat in freshwater causes potentially deadly pathogens to develop and sicken those who consume it. Reduced food and water availability results in malnutrition, with children and the elderly most at risk. With the changes in temperature around the world, vector-borne diseases such as the Zika virus, dengue fever and West Nile virus, are now found in new regions. Also, the loss of jobs and resources caused by climate change makes healthcare unaffordable for those impacted the most.


Building resilience against climate change

Climate change is happening, and all countries need to adapt in order to survive. However, the countries most affected by climate change typically lack the resources to effectively mitigate its effects, while they’ve contributed the least to its cause. These developing countries rely on international finance to recover from the effects of climate change, but despite developed countries promising assistance, they have not delivered. Coastal communities and islands are severely affected by sea level rise, with agricultural communities in Gambia losing valuable land when the sea entered the rivers making it impossible to plant crops.


The United Nations has asked all countries to be carbon neutral by 2050, but developing countries need assistance now. Helping these countries build resilience against climate change could reduce the cost of providing them assistance and rebuilding after a disaster.


How Empowered by Light is empowering impoverished communities

Empowered by Light has completed over 60 projects around the world helping create more sustainable and healthy lives for vulnerable communities.


In remote communities in Zambia, we’ve installed solar water pumps, water storage and irrigation systems to provide access to freshwater to the communities and their crops, reducing food insecurity, improving health and sanitation, and supporting economic development.


In the Brazilian Amazon, we supported the installation of solar powered water pumps in five Huni Kuni communities whose rivers have been contaminated by mining operations. The pumps are providing clean drinking water to improve sanitation and reduce the number of illnesses and deaths.



Join us in fighting climate change and supporting those living in poverty by making a donation today.



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