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Poverty, inequality and food insecurity

Poverty, inequality and food insecurity
Malnutrition is already a very huge problem especially in developing countries, where many areas have over 50% children who are malnourished and stunted. High temperatures and variable rainfall can reduce food production. The World Health Organization estimates an additional half a million adult deaths by 2050. But we are also starting to see the early evidence of impacts of climate change on things like agriculture yields or water security. And the concerns that we have is over time those impacts are only going to get worse. It’s only going to lead to more water insecurity to greater problems for agricultural yields and so on. Climate change is completely altering how food supply chains work.
There’s going to be fundamental effects on food yields, on fresh water flows, things that are the life support system.
The soil is dry. There is no moisture for a plant because there is very little rain. We have always lived off the crops. We have always made a living from what we harvest. From that we make money to buy other foods. Before I used to harvest 3,4,5,6 tons of corn and beans and now nothing, it does not rain. Because of the drought that has come year after year we have had many years like this. Unfortunately, here we are.
When there is no harvest, we have to go out to look for a way to live. Here in our community, we are 1600 people. Two years ago we were 4800 and everybody is leaving. The scientists keep saying there’s a change but we don’t need them to tell us. We are seeing it personally, it doesn’t rain anymore.
At the rate we are going, we will be a ghost town.
Poverty is a key determinant of health, affecting infectious diseases, chronic diseases and also access to health systems. Climate change can increase poverty through many mechanisms such as it affects livelihoods, it forces migration and also increases health care costs. Living at the margin of society, or being highly exposed like living in a flood plain or being homeless, makes people vulnerable to climate change, not a flood, or a drought or a heat stroke per se. So it’s about these inequalities that exist in every society, both in the North and the South, that make people vulnerable. And often they’re associated to gender, to age, well-being, health, class, race, ethnicity.
And whether or not people have access to resources and stake in decision-making processes The real concern for us, the bottom line of that, is the impacts on human health and particularly in the most vulnerable populations in the world that are already struggling with climate sensitive infectious diseases, or food insecurity or water insecurity. Where we have health inequalities already, pre-existing conditions will be exacerbated by climate change. We stand to lose globally some of the progress that we have made on health inequalities because of climate change.

Read this text then watch the video above.

Climate-change is projected to slow down economic growth and exacerbate poverty in low income countries and some middle income countries. Water stress, population growth and other deprivations may force poor people in urban areas in low-income countries and lower middle-income countries to slip from transient to chronic poverty (IPCC Chapter 13). Poverty and malnutrition would also arise from food price increases that may be precipitated by climate change.

Rapid urbanization has led to the growth of large cities and extreme weather events are particularly severe for vulnerable communities living in slums or informal settlements, and especially women, children and the elderly. Such risks have widespread negative impacts on people and their health, livelihoods and assets (IPCC Chapter 8).

All aspects of food security are potentially affected by climate change, including food access, utilization, and price stability. Changes in the distribution of weeds, agricultural pests and diseases are also expected under climate change this century, though – as with floods and droughts – their extent is difficult to forecast accurately. Adverse effects of climate change on crop and food production are already evident in several regions of the world. Several cases of rapid food and cereal price increases associated with extreme weather in key food-growing regions, such as Russia and the USA, have been observed in recent years (IPCC Chapter 7).

Climate change is expected to increase the inter-annual variability of crop yields in many regions (medium confidence), with negative economic and health implications, especially for the world’s poor. Local temperature increases in excess of about 1 degree C – far below the temperature range likely by the end of this century – are projected to have negative effects on yields for the major crops (wheat, rice and maize) in both tropical and temperate regions (IPCC Chapter 7). The production of coarse grains in Africa may be reduced by 17-22% due to climate change in the near-term future.

Climate change is also affecting the abundance and distribution of harvested aquatic species, both freshwater and marine, and aquaculture production systems in different parts of the world. With approximately a billion people reliant on fish as their primary source of animal protein, this could have severely negative impacts on nutrition, particularly in coastal regions (IPCC Chapter 7).

Without adequate adaptation, climate change by 2050 would increase the number of undernourished children under the age of 5 by 20-25 million (IPCC Chapter 7). Undernutrition is important for health not only because it increases susceptibility to infectious diseases and is already an important contributor to child mortality worldwide, but also increases stunting, anaemia and impaired cognitive development, which could increase dramatically without action to curb emissions (IPCC Chapter 13).

This video discusses some of the ways in which a warming climate will affect poor and vulnerable populations. It can making some areas uninhabitable or prone to natural disasters, undermine livelihoods, breaking down social solidarity, and precipitate population displacement.

After the video move on to the discussion.


D. McCoy and N.Watts. 2015. Climate Change: Health Impacts and Opportunities a Summary and Discussion of the IPCC Working Group 2 Report.

IPCC, 2014: Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability. Part A: Global and Sectoral Aspects. Contribution of Working Group II to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [Field, C.B., V.R. Barros, D.J. Dokken, K.J. Mach, M.D. Mastrandrea, T.E. Bilir, M. Chatterjee, K.L. Ebi, Y.O. Estrada, R.C. Genova, B. Girma, E.S. Kissel, A.N. Levy, S. MacCracken, P.R. Mastrandrea, and L.L.White (eds.)]. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, United Kingdom and New York, NY, USA, 1132 pp.

For suggestions for further reading, please see the ‘See Also’ section at the end of this page.

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