At COP26 , the leaders of each country are expected to make the necessary commitments to reduce emissions, mobilize funds and strengthen adaptation and resilience, especially to protect the environment and human populations.
According to reports published by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) , “an increase of 2 ° C would have a major impact on security, food and human health ” . However, it is a situation we are already experiencing and which pushes many people to experience environmental poverty, a key concept in understanding the consequences of climate change.
Indicators to measure the level of poverty
Historically, poverty has primarily been measured in terms of monetary holdings. It was calculated using the average income required per capita to cover basic needs. The World Bank at the global level and each country at the national level define the level of poverty in different quantities. From this perspective, economic growth has proven to be one of the main means of reducing poverty.
In recent decades, thanks to other measures such as the Human Development Index (HDI) and the Multidimensional Poverty Index, other variables have been included to estimate health, education or level of achievement. life, linking poverty with freedom and the ability to achieve well-being.
But these measures lacked environmental impact. Poverty is not explained simply by the responsibility of the individual, but by the context that surrounds it. Numerous studies show that global warming has increased economic inequalities. It favored colder countries like Norway and Sweden and brought economic growth to hot countries like India and Nigeria.
For this reason, new methodologies such as the HDI adjusted for planetary pressures (HDI) were developed for the Human Development Index. It takes into account the pressure that each country exerts on the planet in two areas:
- Carbon dioxide emissions.
- The material footprint, understood as the extraction of natural resources to meet a country's domestic demand for products and services. Unsurprisingly, it was observed how the countries with the greatest human development were also the countries with the largest material footprint per capita and, therefore, the greatest environmental impact.
Poverty and climate change
In this context, we need to understand that poverty and climate change have a two-way relationship. Environmental poverty can be understood as the “ lack of a healthy environment necessary for the survival and development of society”.
The factors that aggravate environmental poverty can be divided mainly into two categories: increasingly recurrent disasters produced by climate variability and pollution and depletion of natural resources.
Climate variability alters the normal functioning of society, generating emergencies that have devastating short- and long-term effects. In 2016, a report by the World Bank and the Global Mechanism for Disaster Prevention and Recovery found that 26 million people are pushed directly into poverty each year as a result of disasters caused by these climate changes. The UN estimates direct economic losses from disasters from 1998 to 2017 at nearly three trillion dollars, with climate-related disasters accounting for 77% of the total.
People living in poverty are more vulnerable and more exposed to climatic disasters. This is in part because they have an inferior ability to choose where to place their house and it is generally inferior in quality and less durable.
In addition, the increase in food prices resulting from climate variability disproportionately affects populations with fewer resources.
Forced migration is another major climatic factor that pushes people into poverty. According to another IPCC report , around 10% of the world's population lives in low-lying coastal areas (just 10 meters from sea level) whose habitability is constantly threatened by sea level rise. For example, El Salvador is expected to lose between 10% and 28% of its coastline by the end of the century.
Another study estimated that more than 1 million people living in three regions with a delta: the Ganges-Brahmaputra delta in Bangladesh, the Mekong delta in Vietnam and the Nile delta in Egypt, will be directly affected by erosion. coastline and land loss by 2050.
On the other hand, the decrease and depletion of natural resources due to deforestation, soil erosion, overfishing or atmospheric pollution reduce the resources essential to human life, affecting in particular the most vulnerable people. vulnerable.
Consequences of pollution
Pollution is the cause of frequent illnesses and in some cases can lead to disability and incapacity for work . Globally, a report published in 2017 by the Lancet Commission on pollution and Health estimated that pollution was the cause of 9 million (16%) of premature death in 2015, five times more than deaths caused by conflict and three times more than malaria, AIDS and tuberculosis combined.
Air pollution in China is responsible for 1.6 million deaths per year, or about 17% of all deaths in the country, according to anotherstudy by Berkeley Earth.
The United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) warns that the depletion and scarcity of natural resources in agricultural societies and coastal areas dependent on marine resources further hamper access to these resources for people who cannot diversify their savings. In Cambodia , for example, overfishing has depleted the fish stocks in Tonle Sap Lake on which millions of people depend.
Policies designed to tackle environmental poverty will not only have to reduce the negative impact of our consumption (especially the richest 10% on the planet) , but also find ways to increase sustainable economic opportunities for those who live. poverty and address a just transition that protects communities affected by ecological transformation.
As Borja Monreal says, “the worst thing about poverty is its silence”. This is why, during these days, more than ever, we must make people understand that millions of people are already living in environmental poverty and understand that its origins and consequences are the responsibility of all.
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