Climate Change, Like A Flood, Hits Those at the Bottom Hardest

If you’re unfortunate enough to have a flood in your area, the first question you’ll want to ask yourself is how high up the hill you are. You’ll want to get yourself to safety and then perhaps give a thought to those lower down. Or, if you’re of a more humanitarian nature, you might head downhill to see if you can lend a hand to those who will surely need it.

The same logic applies to global warming. It’s going to impact those at the bottom of the economic hill, or what economists sometimes call the base of the pyramid, most severely.

A recent video produced by Oxfam America, highlights a number of these challenges, many of which are directly related to water.

  • Drought in Vietnam is causing poor famers to lose their crops and suffer water shortage.
  • In Ethiopia, it takes poor villagers six hours a day to gather water. Rainfall has decreased, crops are failing.
  • Meanwhile, floods in El Salvador lead to contamination of rivers and streams and hand dug wells due to latrines overflowing.
  • And hurricanes in Louisiana have destroyed homes creating thousands of evacuees who could not afford to rebuild.
  • In Nepal, outburst floods from glacial lakes not only cause damage in the present, but threaten the loss of freshwater supply for up to two billion people in the future when they will eventually disappear.

The current crisis in Pakistan, after four weeks of flooding, has caused millions of people to lose their homes. Taken together, these impacts are threatening to reverse progress made towards the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals. As a result of global warming, the weather has become far more unpredictable, farming riskier, water supplies unreliable, sanitation more difficult to maintain. Worst of all, it’s put low lying areas in jeopardy of disappearing altogether, even as fringe groups heavily subsidized by oil billionaires continue to spread rumors, denying the existence of global warming in hopes of casting a paralyzing pall of doubt among decision makers.

A report on Humanitarian  Trends and Future Priorities issued by the Red Cross states that, “Most disasters in Sub Sahara Africa are induced by climatic variations and extreme events. Global warming has been a major contributing factor to growing climatic variable change and Africa is considered more susceptible than other continents because of its limited capacity to undertake preventative measures to mitigate the effects of weather and climatic extremes.”

In other areas like Bangladesh, the poorest citizens are often forced to live in the lowest lying areas because that is the land that no one else wants.

The WWF fund issued a fact sheet on global warming and poverty which suggests that, “Governments in developing countries must facilitate grassroots, community-based approaches to reducing harm from extreme weather events, like storms, droughts, floods and changing seasons. In our experience, these practical examples – including water management, disaster relief, storm and flood protection, seed banks, and conservation of forests and other ecosystems – represent effective ways for threatened communities to adapt to at least to some global warming.”

Meanwhile those of us in the developed parts of the world have our own reasons to be concerned. Many of these same impacts can and will affect us. But since we are the ones responsible for the current greenhouse gas levels, we have a moral obligation to take aggressive action to reduce our carbon footprint, even as we reach out help our brothers and sisters around the world who were born into more dangerous circumstances. We can do this by conserving now and by urging our leaders to pass legislation that will facilitate the rapid deployment of renewables and make it easier for everyone to adjust their lifestyles to a more sustainable, energy-efficient model.

RP Siegel is the co-author of Vapor Trails

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RP Siegel

RP Siegel, author and inventor, shines a powerful light on numerous environmental and technological topics. His work has appeared in Triple Pundit, GreenBiz, Justmeans, CSRWire, Sustainable Brands, PolicyInnovations, Social Earth, 3BL Media, ThomasNet, Huffington Post, Strategy+Business, Mechanical Engineering, and among others . He is the co-author, with Roger Saillant, of Vapor Trails, an adventure novel that shows climate change from a human perspective. RP is a professional engineer - a prolific inventor with 52 patents and President of Rain Mountain LLC a an independent product development group. RP recently returned from Abu Dhabi where he traveled as the winner of the 2015 Sustainability Week blogging competition.Contact:

9 responses

  1. Anyone who supported the Climate Change mistake after 24 years of needless panic was an unconscionable fear mongering liar. Climate Change was the very measure and litmus test of honesty and virtue. To have wished for the CO2 mistake to have been true was sick and inhuman. History has a special place for you intellectual fossils and witch burners of climate change.
    You tried like cowards to scare our kids and it is they who are now leading the wave of denier rage and payback. Climate Change was environMENTALism’s Iraq War of lies and WMD’s and had done to science, media and liberalism what Bush did to conservatism. Climate Changers were fear mongering neocons of environmentalism.

    1. mememine
      You’re certainly entitled to your opinion, though I wonder where you get your information from. You don’t suppose that those you listen to have anything to lose from the urgent necessity of reducing the use of fossil fuels, do you?

  2. What a load of crap!!! Why don’t you really say what you mean… want to redistribute the wealth to these poor unfortunates. Instead of masking it with the clap trap you stated above, just say it: We really don’t want cap and trade…just send us ALL of your money to help these poor, poor people!!!

  3. Some real geniuses commenting today! I can’t blame people for getting upset though when they are fed junk news.

    Anyway, assuming any are still reading: In the context of this article, whether you believe in climate change or not is irrelevant. There are more than enough other problems (water, oil, land development…) that disproportionately affect poor people and poor countries that you still ought to be concerned. Unless you like the idea of 100 million refugees at your doorstep.

    The point of Oxfam’s program is that making investments with poor people (not hand-outs, kids) is the best way to bring them to an economic position where they can start handling and dealing with these problems.

  4. Right… as to Nick’s points.

    And we all have a way to do that… help developing people along, in healthy, economic way… Thanks to a relatively new venture by the folks at eBay… where by micro-loans are managed for someone of the poorest areas in the world.

    Check it out:

  5. Most of the climate doubters base their arguments on the fact that much of the global warming prediction comes from computer models, which could be wrong. This is true. In fact, recent data shows that the models were slightly wrong and in fact the Arctic ice is melting far faster than the models had predicted Other feedback mechanisms that hadn’t been included are making the warming more severe and bringing it on more rapidly than the models had originally forecast.

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