Climate change and poverty

Despite contributing little to global warming, it is the most vulnerable people that already suffer the worst of climate change.

For more than 40 years, Practical Action has been working directly with poor communities around the world and our experience shows that even slight alterations in weather patterns can impact on people’s lives.


Industrialised countries may debate how reducing emissions will affect them financially, but it is the poorest people in developing countries that are feeling the most severe human, physical, and financial impacts of climate change. They are also the least prepared to protect themselves against this new imposed threat. 


What makes the poor more vulnerable?

Lack of assets

When an natural disaster or economic crisis hits in developed countries there is home insurance to help rebuild houses, free emergency healthcare, and in severe cases, government aid and money to help rebuild lives and businesses. Usually, people also have savings or a steady income to fall back on, all of which help them to recover and return to a normal lifestyle.

The world’s poorest people don’t have those mechanisms to fall back on. Without access to savings or loans, and with little opportunity to acquire new skills or take advantage of new opportunities, poor people are often unable to rebuild their lives. What is more, where the climate is changing year on year, there are no spare resources to adjust or adapt practices in order to reduce the impacts.


Depending on natural resources

People in rural communities generate most of their income from farming, fishing, or livestock rearing and, therefore, rely on the natural resources available to them. Any changes in rainfall levels, soil quality, temperature or water-levels can have devastating consequences for their livelihoods.

Climate change can – and often already is – affecting the lives of millions of people through changes in rainfall, temperature and water supply, as well as through natural disasters.


Living in the most dangerous areas

Throughout the developed world it is usually the poorest that are forced to live in the most dangerous and marginalised areas. These are places where no one else will live because they are too risky.

Despite these vulnerabilities, people have developed ways to live in severe circumstances. They already have the knowledge and techniques to survive in harsh conditions, but, as climate change intensifies the challenges beyond their experience, support is needed to protect people's livelihoods and their right to develop.

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