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[Article] How a Warmer Climate Can Mean a Poorer People

By: Godfred Nelson |

Global poverty has reduced considerably between 1990 and 2015. While this is remarkable, it contrasts sharply with declining reduction in extreme poverty in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). The World Bank reports that the number of people living in extreme poverty in the SSA region increased from 278 million in 1990 to 413 million in 2015.

Also, of the world’s 28 poorest countries, 27 are in SSA, with poverty rates all above 30 per cent of the respective populations.

Some reasons identified for these worrying statistics include conflicts and political instability, corruption, and illiteracy rates. Aside these, there is strong evidence pointing to climate change and global warming as a contributing factor in increasing poverty in the SSA.

Climate change accounts for increase in aridity or dryness of arable lands for farming and also decrease viability of same going a long way to affect livelihoods of the largely small holder farming population in the region.

In her words, the then Chief Executive Officer of the World Bank, Georgieva Kristalina summarised the ordeal a warmer world will as we see now, put the world’s poor through saying,  “our climate is changing and the impact will be felt hardest by the millions of poor and vulnerable people in the world.”

With each degree Celsius increase in global temperature, water as a primary resource of agriculture will become scarce. Floods, decreasing economic opportunities in agriculture, and increased pest activity are areas in which impacts shall be hard hit.

SSA accounts for 60 per cent of the world’s arable land but uses only 43 per cent of its arable land with rain fed potential (FAO). For a region which is heavily agriculture dependent as high as about 30 per cent share in GDP, and with high segments of its population into small holder farming, disruption in rainfall patterns leads to high incidence of crop failure and hence low food security; a causative factor of poverty.

With climate change, Africa will see an increase in crop pests and diseases in addition to altered soil fertility. (FAO, Climate Change in Africa; The threat to Agriculture, 2009).

This can be attested to by the recent increase in the activities of fall army worms in many areas of Ghana. Several acres of maize were affected, sending many small holder farmers into poverty. This was so because most of the farmers accessed loans from family and friends and to some extent, microfinance institutions to finance their farms.

Warmer climates also means more bushfires destroying farmlands, crops and fodder for grazing animals hence, eroding livelihood for a large number of people engaged in pastoral activities.

In SSA, poor infrastructure, inadequate governmental policies to ready the population against the risks of natural disasters, and lack of good climate financing makes poor people more susceptible to the impact of natural disasters such as flooding, increased sea tides among others.  It was in the news recently how indigenes of parts of Anlo in the Volta Region of Ghana were forced out of their homes due to the sea tides “encroaching” on their settlement.

Finally as a cause of poverty, conflicts over limited natural resources is also a factor that pushes a good number into poverty. Climate change ensures limitations in some important natural resources such as water, forests and arable land. For instance, the recurring conflicts between some indigenes of some parts of Ghana and nomadic herdsmen can largely be traced to the availability or absence of fodder to feed livestock.

It is evident that the role of global warming and climate change cannot be overlooked as it is an important determinant of poverty rates. It is important that governments and other stakeholders take advantage of the many resources at their disposal from international organisations in the area of Climate finance and adaptation to help alleviate the plight of the suffering poor.

This is instrumental in the attainment of the most important Sustainable Development Goal of extreme Poverty eradication by 2030.

NB: The writer is an Environmentalist and a Climate Change Advocate

Source: www.voltaonlinegh.com

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