Additional info from the Climate Reality Project
If you work or play inside all day, it’s easy to forget how climate shapes your life. Climate affects everything from the food we eat, to the clothes we wear, to how we build our homes. This means manmade climate change can also affect every aspect of our lives — and usually not in a good way.
Here’s the thing. Climate change will affect us all, but it won’t affect us all equally. The poorest people of the world will bear the brunt of climate change, even though they’ve contributed least to the global warming pollution in the atmosphere.
Why are low-income people so vulnerable to climate change? For one thing, they are more likely to rely on climate-sensitive natural resources for food or income. Take Arctic Canada, for example, where low-income families find it harder to keep their pantries stocked in unusually warm winters. For another thing, people in extreme poverty are often exposed to multiple environmental problems at the same time. Climate change can worsen poverty by compounding existing problems such as low-quality cropland. Or, as the United Nations Development Programme puts it: “People have to work more to achieve the same returns or may even have to migrate to escape environmental degradation.”
Well, that’s assuming they have the means to migrate, of course. It takes money to pack up your family and move to a new place — especially when you live on a small island that is being inundated by rising seas.
And then there’s the fact that climate change is increasing the risk of extreme weather like heat waves and heavy rain. Extreme weather doesn’t care if you’re rich or poor. But chances are if you have enough money, you can get away from a weather disaster or rebuild what you lose. For instance, a recent study (PDF) found the urban poor are more vulnerable to the health impacts of extreme heat because they lack access to air conditioning. Similarly, a U.S. Department of Agriculture report suggests that more frequent heat waves will increase demand for electricity. Increased demand can drive energy prices higher — putting life-saving air conditioning even further out of reach for low-income American families.