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Marginalized Communities are Victims of Climate Extremes: Report


It had been predicted that the usual rainfall pattern in the entire northeastern region had changed radically as evident of climate change process, and it is likely that this will impact the agricultural cycle.

By Salam Rajesh

 ‘People living in extreme poverty are more vulnerable to natural disasters and commonly live in regions that have been and are projected to be most impacted by climate change. Unfortunately, the benefits of addressing climate change in ways that simultaneously improve the human well-being (HWB) of people living in extreme poverty are commonly overlooked -despite their promise to yield substantial socioeconomic, health, equity, ecological, and biodiversity gains’.

This hard hitting summarization of the actuality on ground reflects the core of discussions on how the vulnerable sections of society fare at the worst end of climate extremities, as is being carefully diagnosed in a recent report (2022) of Project Drawdown by authors Yusuf Jameel and others, titled as “Climate–poverty connections: Opportunities for synergistic solutions at the intersection of planetary and human well-being”.

The report while profiling climate change as one of the most important development challenges of modern times, says climate change ‘intensifies the effects of poverty, inequality, population growth, rapid urbanization, environmental degradation, and disrupts national economies and their long-term growth potential’.

The report does not mince words in stating that no country is immune from the impacts of climate change. It suggests, in a nutshell, that ‘Reducing emissions and becoming more resilient are vital, and urgently require countries to make major social, economic, and technological changes’.

Addressing climate extremities require nations to hard drive their commitments to the 2030 and 2050 agendas, wherein the authors of the report are of the expressed opinion that ‘The task of bending the emissions curve and improving livelihoods is extremely urgent. The gravity and scale of the challenge requires countries to learn quickly from each other, adapt to their own special circumstances, and be audacious in implementing effective climate policies’.

Referring to the targets outlined for climate change mitigation and adaptation measures, the report suggests that ‘Properly designed and implemented policies for low-carbon and resilient growth can also help address poverty and inequality, enabling millions to live safer, more prosperous, more inclusive, and more sustainable lives’.

At the global forums, there are basically two distinctive areas of discussions or debates – the polluters and the polluted. The more developed nations in the West, for instance the Americas and Europe are primarily seen as the polluting nations by emitting tons of carbons from their numerous factories and industrial units, and the huge number of vehicular traffic – not to leave out the high volume of aerosol fuel emission by the numerous airplanes and spacecrafts.

Viewed against this picture are the small societies of Indigenous peoples and local communities living in the lush green rainforests of the Amazon Basin and in Southeast Asia who somehow are directly and indirectly impacted by the extreme pollution level that emits from the far developed countries in the North.

The intricate deliberations on the impacts of climate change also bring out the divide between the North and the South, where it had often been charged that the pollution level from the North indirectly impacts the South. This also filters down to the argument that the richer and more developed nations in the North are primary responsible for polluting the poorer, underdeveloped nations down South.

To substantiate the argument, it is fairly interesting and intriguing to understand how the huge mass of ice sheets in the Arctic Circle are being impacted significantly by the process of global warming – a process that is said to be largely influenced by the huge volume of carbon emissions from different source points particularly by the developed nations.

On this note, the report looks more critically at the inequalities. It says, ‘Investments in low-carbon development pathways, as well as climate adaptation, must prioritize countries that are first and worst impacted by climate change – particularly low and middle income countries. The costs are high, yet the costs of inaction are far higher – and leaves those least responsible for the climate crisis without the resources for a better, more resilient future as their economies bend toward prosperity’.

This, of course, reflects again on the level of vulnerability that marginalized communities in the underdeveloped countries experience, with high risk on eventualities from unprecedented events that are directly related to impacts of climate change, such as extreme heat waves, cold waves, droughts and famine.

Substantiating this finer argument, the report is of the opinion that ‘Responses to climate change must also directly address rural communities’ economic, nutritional, and energy needs – particularly those of women. Many groups of climate mitigation solutions, including those that focus on Improving Agriculture and Agroforestry, Protecting and Restoring Ecosystems, Adopting Clean Cooking, Providing Clean Electricity, and Fostering Equality, depend on women’s labor and shape women’s livelihoods. Climate interventions can and should contribute to improved education, health, and gender equality’.

The extent to which vulnerable communities reel under extreme weather and climate events directly bear upon the women and children, where reports of women enduring immense hardship to seek food and water security had emerged from many regions that are prone to extreme events of floods, droughts, wildfires, cyclonic storms, and heat waves.

The Project Drawdown report highlights evidence of the co-benefits to human well-being of proven climate mitigation solutions. It showcases ‘areas of greatest need for funders, policymakers, nongovernmental organizations and other decision-makers to act and drive approaches to meet climate, development, and HWB needs while boosting prosperity for rural communities, especially in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia’.

The focus, thereof, for the States is to prepare long term strategic action plans that address the needs of vulnerable communities with more details on grassroots activities that can be implemented with objectivity and to minimize the impending impacts resulting out of extreme weather and climate events.

As for instance, it had been predicted that the usual rainfall pattern in the entire northeastern region had changed radically as evident of climate change process, and it is likely that this will impact the agricultural cycle. When this happens, it either means that there is going to be extreme event of rainfall deficit when the rains are much needed and excessive rainfall when it is least expected.

Preparing the vulnerable communities for such extreme events is of priority for the States. The India Meteorological Department had already predicted excessive rainfall this season and that indicates probable floods, damaging crops and properties. The States need to be well prepared to meet these pre-forecast extreme events, specifically the food security and safety of the vulnerable communities.

(The writer is a media professional working on environmental issues. He can be reached at [email protected])

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