what is climate change?
Climate change refers to changes in weather patterns over time. The earth’s climate has always been changing, but today, it is changing too fast because of what people are doing. Before, climate changes occurred because of natural causes (such as volcanic eruptions); today, climate change is also brought on by human beings.
climate change is real
No one disputes that Earth’s climate is changing or that atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases have increased as a result of human activities. The concentrations of carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide are higher now than at any time during the last 420,000 years. Overwhelming scientific evidence supports the conclusion that observed changes in the global climate are, in large part, due to human activities and primarily related to fossil-fuel consumption patterns. Without urgent action to curb greenhouse-gas emissions, the Earth will become warmer by 2050 than at anytime in the last 10,000 years.
what are the issues?
The impacts of climate change are complex. Some times gradual, some times sudden, but nearly always hitting the poor first and hitting them hardest.
It is causing the Himalayan glaciers to melt and if these disappear, it will threaten the viability of farming across huge swathes of South and East Asia. In the Pacific, whole islands are having to evacuate, as sea levels rise contaminating the soil with salt. People who have farmed cattle in Africa for generations are abandoning their traditional ways of life, as changing weather patterns make cattle rearing impossible.
The world’s scientists have already agreed on the causes, such as burning too much fossil fuel. And we are already seeing some of the impacts. But world leaders have not yet shown the courage and leadership. We need to move towards a just solution.
The impacts of climate change has already been tremendous. We are feeling it already!
- Food prices rise
- Failed harvest, means loss of income
- Lost homes
- Lost livelihoods
- Increased flooding, displacing families
- More disasters will destroy infrastructure
- Difficulty in finding water
how do people bring about climate change?
Carbon emissions increase the world’s temperature. And as the earth warms up, the weather starts to behave erratically. Ice caps in the North and South Poles will melt causing rising sea levels which in turn bring about heavy flooding in countries. A warmer earth also means tropical countries such as the Philippines even become hotter, which brings down farming and fishing harvests.
Causes of increasing carbon emissions are cutting of trees; use of cars and machineries; and use of coal and natural gas. Therefore, if we preserve our forests and curb our use of fuel, the earth will stop from heating up too much. (Source: WWF)
effect on the global economy
The impacts of climate change will affect everyone; some have calculated that the costs associated with overcoming climate impacts could even exceed global economic output within a few generations. The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (the IPCC – a high-level, independent, scientific advisory body) developed a scenario for 2080 that predicts the following types of impacts, assuming there is no action to limit greenhouse-gas emissions:
- Sea levels could increase by 50 cm – Almost twice as many people as now would be exposed to severe flooding from storm surges – 18 million people. The majority of people who would be affected live along the coasts of South and South East Asia.
- Water availability could decline – Over three billion people in the Middle East and the Indian sub-continent could be facing acute shortages of water
- Seasonal rainfall patterns could be severely disrupted – Drought and floods could increase, but the most damaging shifts would likely be relatively small changes in rainfall which, cumulatively, could dramatically decrease global crop yields; areas such as sub- Saharan Africa, South East Asia, and tropical areas of Latin America could face major food shortages.
- The frequency and intensity of extreme-weather events could increase – Leading to loss of life, injury, mass population dislocations, and economic devastation of poor countries.
- Human health could suffer from a combination of effects – People’s resistance to disease could be weakened by heat stress, water shortages, and malnutrition. Increases in air pollution could lead to a rise in respiratory illnesses. In these conditions infectious diseases such as malaria, dengue fever, and schistosomaisis could proliferate rapidly.
No one will be immune, but climate change will have a disproportionate effect on the lives of people living in poverty in developing countries. Between 1990 and 1998, 94 percent of the world’s 568 major natural disasters, and more than 97 per cent of all natural disaster-related deaths, were in developing countries.
- People living in poverty are more likely to live in unplanned, temporary settlements, which are erected on unsuitable land – most prone to the risks of flooding, storm surges, and landslides
- Most eke out a precarious economic existence – subsistence farming or fishing – and have no savings or assets to insure them against external shocks
- They lack sanitation and their limited access to clean water, poor diet, and inadequate health-care provision undermine their resistance to infectious diseases
- Their lack of social status and the informal nature or remoteness of their settlements means that they do not receive adequate warnings of impending disasters
- Relief efforts are least likely to reach them
- Lack of education and official neglect means that they have little alternative after disasters but to remain in or return to the disaster-prone areas, with diminished assets, and await the next, calamitous event. Poverty increases people’s exposure, and climate change increases the risks; people living in poverty and poor communities are most vulnerable.
Climate change is environmental change, but given that human societies are affected directly and indirectly by the climate system – and given that human activities are driving climate change – it is fundamentally a human problem.
Climate change cuts across boundaries. The impacts of climate change are expected to seriously (and disproportionately) affect the livelihoods, health, and educational opportunities of people living in poverty, as well as their chances of survival, both locally in specific areas and globally in general. As a global environmental challenge, the drivers of which are inextricably linked with high-consumption lifestyles, climate change lies firmly outside the sphere of influence of poor communities and poor countries, who have little say in how the challenge will be addressed. Those with special burdens and/or vulnerabilities such as women, ethnic minorities, and people living with HIV/AIDS are feeling yet another pressure in global warming – one that is fundamentally unjust.
climate change is happening now and poor people are adapting
In 1983, Oxfam produced “Weather Alert”, a briefing paper that recorded the human impacts of various climate anomalies affecting our programmes across the globe – before the term “climate change” was even in use! Oxfam staff and partners working in both emergency and development contexts are now reporting an increase in climate-related anomalies – melting glaciers in Tajikistan; extended droughts and climate variability across Africa; flooding in South Asia – and are concerned about the increasing burden that climate-related disasters present to Oxfam and the wider international humanitarian relief community. A research initiative focusing on climate impacts and community responses in Southern Africa that Oxfam partnered with in 2002 (the ADAPTIVE project) confirms that:
- Climate change is happening now – Though it often is discussed as a phenomenon whose impacts will be felt far in the future, major shifts in climate variability are already in progress
- People living in poverty are adapting to the effects of climate change – Some strategies are more effective than others, and some communities are better able to move beyond coping to adapt and change their livelihoods strategies, but in general the strategies of people living in poverty need to be understood and supported by those seeking to help.
Since 1971, the mean temperatures have increased by 0.14 °C per decade or a total of 0.61 °C . Although it is said that temperatures will continue to rise but more slowly than the global average, there is still a noticeable increase in the frequency of hot days and nights and a significant decrease in cold days and nights. Warming has occurred in all season, but has been warmest in June to August. Since 1960, the mean annual rainfall and the number of rainy days have increased. But similar to other countries in the region, the country has experienced similar variability in the onset of the rainy season. Moreover, sea levels in major Philippine coastal cities are rising.
Due to these changes, the projected impacts to name a few are; an increase in temperatures and extreme climate events (floods, storm surges, intense monsoon rains, unpredictable weather patterns), coastal erosion, saltwater intrusion, frequent toxic red tides, increase acidity of the seas, lowered agricultural production, riskier health situations, predictable intensified droughts and floods associated with El Niño and La Nina, etc.
we are in it together
The environmental effects of climate change are well-known. It is threatening wildlife, causing ice caps to melt and increasing the number of weather-related natural disasters.
What is less publicized though is how climate change is driving many of the world’s poorest people dangerously close to the edge of survival.
People from all over the world can pressure rich countries to sign a global deal for climate when they meet in
Copenhagen, Denmark this December. The global deal requires rich countries to:
- Cut their carbon emissions by 40% by 2020.
- Give aid to poor countries of $150 Billion annually to enable them to cope with climate change impacts.
Climate change is putting life on earth in peril. There is still time to build a greener, safer world. But the clock is ticking. In December, world leaders will meet in Copenhagen to decide our destiny. We call on our leaders to go to Copehagen and sign a global climate deal that is:
- Ambitious: enough to leave a planet safe for us all.
- Fair: for the poorest countries that did not cause climate change but are suffering the most from it.
- Binding: with real targets that can legally monitored.