Who's really being affected by climate change?
Most of us know by now that not everyone will be equally affected by climate change. What’s worse is that, generally speaking, it's the communities who contributed the least to the problem that will be disproportionately affected by the warming climate. This is due to 'Carbon Inequality' (not sure what that is? Check out our intro post here!), and in this article, we explore a few specific examples...
Oxfam recently released the report ‘Confronting Carbon Inequality’ based on research conducted with the Stockholm Environment Institute, concluding that the richest 1% of the world’s population are responsible for more than twice as much carbon pollution as the poorest half of humanity during a critical 25-year period of unprecedented emissions growth.
The most vulnerable are people living in some of the lowest-income countries, such as Haiti and Timor-Leste, as well as the 2.5 billion smallholder farmers, herders, and fishers who depend on a consistent climate and natural resources for food security and income. Climate change has turned these people’s lives upside down, and as the effects of climate change worsen, it's likely so will their need to rely on international aid.
Which communities stand to suffer the most from climate change? And which communities are already suffering the repercussions? We take a closer look at one particular community in Uganda that have been struggling and adapting to the negative effects of a rapidly warming world...
The population of the Karamoja region, located in Northeastern Uganda, is highly dependent on subsistence agriculture for food security and livelihoods. The majority of families living there practice both agro-pastoral and pastoral farming in order to meet their needs for food and livelihood. This leaves them in a precarious position when it comes to climate change drastically altering the conditions with which they need to sustain their crops.
In 2017, extensive research was conducted to determine the effects of climate change on household food security and livelihoods, that was analysed in a report, The Impacts of Climate Change on Food Security and Livelihoods in Karamoja.
The report determined that the Karamoja region has experienced changes in average rainfall and temperature over a 35-year period. There is evidence of increasing rainfall amounts in the months of the short rainy season that starts from September through to November. One impact of this prolonged rainfall is extension of the growing season. However... average monthly temperatures in the Karamoja region are also increasing, affecting livestock forage quality and leading to negative livestock productivity.
The disrupted rain patterns means that farmers aren’t able to depend on the historic weather patterns they have become familiar with when planting and harvesting crops. This is a shock to the agricultural system. There are additional climate shocks, including droughts and floods, that have impacted nearly 75% of respondents in the study. This has left the population vulnerable to food security and the loss of their livelihood. In several impacted areas, poverty has taken a solid hold on citizens - with coping strategies including begging, borrowing, or selling assets to meet basic household needs.
Despite the disrupted weather patterns, and more frequent occurrence of extreme weather events, there isn’t a general understanding of climate change and how to adapt to it amongst the community.
At the time, it was projected that the Karamoja region would experience an increase of 0.3 - 2.8 degrees celsius by the 2050s with an increase in extreme weather such as dry periods, heavy rains and droughts. These climate projections will have impacts on agricultural production (crop failure, low productivity, water scarcity, resource use conflicts, etc.) and health (increased malnutrition and hunger, reduced water availability/quality, increased risk from vector and waterborne diseases).
When Ugandan journalist Geoffrey Mutegeki wrote about the region’s issues with lack of rainfall and droughts, he spoke to several locals feeling the impact on their livelihoods.
Lokiro Amori, a farmer in Moroto district says he could not plant because the rains will soon stop and his crops dry due to drought. "The weather here is tricky, the rains are no longer enough and the soils are not productive. I'm scared of planting my sorghum which will be burnt by the sun. I will concentrate on my animals," Amori says. He says last season he was a victim of the long drought which destroyed his crops.
It is an unfair world, in which the Karamoja community must pay the consequences for something they did not do; while major carbon emitting nations are only waking-up to the detrimental impact they have had in contributing to global emissions.
Carbon inequality is an uncomfortable topic for most, but must be faced head on when it comes to crisis mitigation. Here are a few specific things you can do:
Learn more about climate change and poverty here and consider donating to organisations helping people in immediate risk if you can
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