Climate change could kill millions of world's poorest

Posted: 24 May 2006

A staggering 182 million people in sub-Saharan Africa alone could die of disease directly attributable to climate change by the end of the century, warns a new report from the development organisation, Christian Aid.

As climate change brings warmer and wetter weather in Africa, diseases like malaria, chorela and dengue fever will become more common and widespread on the continent. Many millions more throughout the world face death and devastation due to climate-induced floods, famine, drought and conflict.

Zimbabwe farmers. Photo: Emmanuel Koro
Zimbabwe farmers. Photo: Emmanuel Koro
Droughts in Zimbabwe require increasing reliance on groundwater for irrigation.© Emmanuel Koro
Andrew Pendleton, climate and development analyst at Christian Aid says that climate change is now threatening development goals for billions of the world's poorest people - with a clear danger that recent gains in reducing poverty will be thrown into reverse in coming decades.

Green future

But the report, The climate of poverty: facts, fears and hope also offers the vision of a green future. The organisation is urging for a switch by sub-Saharan Africa away from fossil fuels to renewable energy like solar, wind and water, that could result in more jobs, better health and education, while protecting the environment.

The report calculates that for less money than it would take to pay the region's oil bill for the next decade, every household in Africa could change to clean, renewable energy.

In response to the findings of the report, Christian Aid is calling on the UK government to:

  • institute a strict 'carbon budget' which will reduce emissions, year on year, by two thirds of 1990 levels by 2050.

  • lead rich countries in offering new financial support to developing countries - by way of compensation for the damage already inflicted on the environment.

  • help to establish and fund programmes to provide renewable energy to poor communities.

Summer floods make life miserable for residents of Bangladesh.
Summer floods make life miserable for residents of Bangladesh.
Every summer floods make life miserable for residents of Bangladesh. Photo © NIEHS
The report highlights the impact of climate of change on some of the world's poorest countries. In Kenya, where climate change is fuelling violence in drought-hit areas, pastoralists in the north of the country have started killing each other over the right to water their cattle at a diminishing number of watering holes. In Bangladesh, a predicted rise in sea levels would leave millions displaced and dispossessed. There is, quite literally, no where for them to go. Already families must move every couple of years, as increased melt water from the Himalayan glaciers sweeps their land and fragile livelihoods away.

'This report exposes clearly and starkly the devastating impact that human induced climate change will have on many of the world's poorest people,' says climate scientist, Sir John Houghton.

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Read the report, The climate of poverty: facts fears and hope

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