Unequal Briefing: The inequality of climate change impacts; Ukraine faces food shortages
The world's bread basket is facing food shortages due to Russia's invasion and the IPCC report highlights that the worst impacts of climate change are being borne disproportionately by the poor.
This week the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released yet another dire report on climate change and how very little is being done about it.
One of its messages is that climate change is already here. The world has already warmed by 1.1 degrees Celsius compared to the average temperatures in the pre-industrialised age.
We are already perilously close to the aspirational 1.5 degrees Celsius target under the Paris agreement.
Over 3.3 billion people are already living in conditions that are “very highly or highly” vulnerable to climate change. The most vulnerable regions include Central America, South Asia, east, central and west Africa, Micronesia and Melanesia (in the Pacific ocean).
The IPCC report points out that these regions are most vulnerable not only because of climate impacts but also because they are less well prepared to deal with the affects. These are regions that are already suffering from high levels of poverty, challenges with access to basic services, weak institutional and government capacity, and high levels of gender inequity.
When an extreme weather event impacts a poor country with weak governance like say, Afghanistan, 15 times more people are likely to die than a rich country with good governance like say, Australia.
Extreme weather events have already exposed millions in the poorest parts of the world to acute food insecurity and water insecurity.
What's going to make matters worse in the future is that the populations of the most vulnerable countries are expected to grow “significantly” while the populations of the countries with low vulnerability are expected to “decrease or only grow slightly”.
This has implications for a very highly politicised term in the United Nations climate change parlance – loss and damage. The IPCC faced stiff opposition from rich countries to even include the term loss and damage in the report's text.
They tweaked the term to losses and damages apparently to rid it of its political overtones and make it more palatable for the west. However, the heroic effort to pluralise the term wasn't enough for the west who still objected to it.
But the sheer weight of evidence and data on climate vulnerability of the poor nations meant they could push back and losses and damages is now an integral part of the IPCC report.
One sample of the kind of evidence we are talking about it is that a study of 92 developing countries found that overwhelmingly, it is the poor even within those countries who suffer the worst impacts of climate change.
The study found that the losses because of climate hazards suffered by the poorest 40 percent were 70% greater than those suffered by people with average wealth in these countries.
The IPCC authors warn with “high confidence” that if warming continues unabated—as it is likely to given the lack of adequate steps to contain it—and adequate adaptation measures are not taken—as they are not being taken—then losses and damages due to weather events will increase multiple times. And those losses and damages will be concentrated among the poorest and most vulnerable populations.
The report contends that climate change is likely to “force” economic transition away from agriculture and into other kinds of wage labour with low wage levels and precarious or no social protections. The number of people living in extreme poverty, the authors warn, is likely to increase by an astonishing 122 million in just the next eight years.
Climate change is putting extreme stress on agriculture and, as a result, on food security around the world. The report cites a study that estimated that between 1850 and 2010 there had been a 10 percent yield reduction in four major crops.
Yields will reduce even more in the future and the report also warns of scenarios where simultaneously occurring weather extremes could impact agricultural produce in major food-producing regions. This would severely affect food security in large parts of the world.
The consequences for food security will be significant, as we are witnessing already. The impacts are the worst in South Asia, sub-Saharan Africa and Central America. The report estimates that by 2050, 80 million more people could be food insecure.
The bottom line and the key message of the report is that climate change is already here, and it's time that governments around the world co-operate and double down on their efforts at adapting to the new reality.
Wheat prices hit record highs
As a result of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, prices of wheat in the commodity markets have soared. Prices of wheat in the benchmark Chicago commodity market have jumped 50 percent since the invasion. The situation has some very severe implications for food security around the world, as we pointed out last week.
The World Food Programme ramping up operations in Ukraine
The WFP has said that it is establishing a “food lifeline” into parts of Ukraine suffering from shortages of food. Because of the war and disrupted or broken supply chains, food has begun to run out in parts of Ukraine. Ironically, Ukraine has been known as the world’s food basket for a while.
10 dead at a landslide in a gold mine in Guinea
A landslide at a goldmine in Guinea killed at least 10 earlier this week, AFP reported. The mine has been ordered to close by authorities in the West African nation but work continued clandestinely.
Australia’s once in a century floods
Devastating floods have impacted large parts of the east coast of Australia killing 17. The torrential downpour that brought the floods has been described by scientists as a “rain bomb”. Australia’s third-largest city Brisbane received 80 percent of its annual rainfall in just three days.
If you want to know everything about the new IPCC report, do not look beyond this in-depth piece by the staff of Carbon Brief.
This gut-wrenching report by Sadhika Tiwari of Quint on the migrant labourers who committed suicide in India’s eastern Uttar Pradesh after the unplanned and hastily announced lockdown in 2020.