Flash floods, forest fires, drought, melting glaciers, rising sea levels, earthquakes… you’d think all of these have something to do with the end of the world prophecy as read in the bible but no. These are the results of activities performed solely by man and if you connect the dots of these catastrophic events it will lead you to one thing – human-induced climate change.
Let’s not be too cocky and think that this crisis won’t affect us at all. On the contrary, it is happening right now; people across the globe feel the subtle and grave consequences of global warming and the poorest in the poorest nations are the most vulnerable to the effects of climate change.
“… the gravest effects of all the attacks on the environment are suffered by the poorest.”– Pope Francis
The world’s oceans are heating up about 40% faster than scientists predicted, coral reefs are dying and last year was the hottest on record. Change in the earth’s climate, as scientists are predicting, will accelerate and more disasters are expected.
Although the climate crisis is a global phenomenon, the impacts of it are not the same for every country. Those that emit the least amount of greenhouse gas emissions per capita are those that will suffer the most. From people living in low-lying Pacific islands and experiencing rising sea levels, to longer heat waves and food shortages such as those experienced by some African nations, here are three countries that are vulnerable to climate change and what they are doing about the threat.
India is one of the biggest emitters of greenhouse gas emissions (although broken down per capita, each are living within their planetary means) and with the threat of climate change, the country faces a tough issue: delivering electricity to millions of households that don’t have power whilst simultaneously implementing climate action.
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According to a study published in Science Advances in 2017, the number of deaths has dramatically increased in the country due to extreme heat and is expected to worsen as the planet continues to heat up and bring more frequent heat waves. In the span of four short years until the year 2017, over 4,000 lives were claimed due to heat wave. Keep in mind that millions of people in the country live in poverty (with billions of people across the world living without electricity), and without access to ways to keep cool such as air conditioning, death by heat wave is expected to rise.
The Ministry of Environment and Forest in India also released a report last month and on the agenda, focus on reforestation efforts and a “Solar Mission” to install 20 gigawatts of solar capacity by 2020 and 200 gigawatts by 2050.
The country is facing severe drought, has so on and off for more than 25 years, but it has worsened in the last two years due to lack of rain. There are 500,000 people – one in five Namibians – without access to enough food, leading President Geingob to declare a state of emergency in May 2019.
Both humans and animals are starving to death, with some resorting to extreme measures to get by. The government, for example, announced that they needed to auction off 1,000 wild animals to raise money for conservation and save some Namibian lives. In Namibia’s capital and largest city of Windhoek, authorities have urged businesses to cut down water usage by 30% and for residents to limit their water usage to less than 90 liters per person.
Global Future Councils of the World Economic Forum announced that both Namibia and Botswana have teamed up to work on a 5,000 megawatt solar project to help mitigate the escalating effects of climate change.
An average of 20 typhoons has hit the country every year over the last decade and since 2006, five out of the ten deadliest typhoons have hit the archipelago nation of the Philippines. There are two factors contributing to the country’s vulnerability to climate change – geography and development. The Philippines is situated between Taiwan and Borneo, and surrounded by the Pacific Ocean and China Sea. Due to its geographical location, storms and floods are the country’s principal natural hazard, and further development will aggravate the threat and the consequences of global warming and its effects on the country.
Furthermore, because of extreme deforestation, quarrying and illegal logging, the country lacks natural barriers exposing its people to even more to deadly typhoons. For example, ten years ago, Typhoon Ondoy hit Metro Manila leaving 300 people dead and almost PHP$9 billion total in damages. In just 24 hours, the whole metro area experienced a month’s worth of rainfall– the first time it has occurred in the country’s history.
Compounding the problem, 20 million Filipinos live in poverty and most of their houses are built from light materials that are easily swept away by flash floods or torn apart by strong winds. In addition, there aren’t enough government funds to invest in building infrastructure that could resist natural calamities or help with relief efforts.
As announced by commissioner Rachel Herrera of Climate Change Commission Philippines, one of the priorities of the Duterte Administration is the Climate Change Adaptation program, focussing on the adaptive capacity of communities, resilience of natural ecosystems and sustainability of built environment to climate change. In addition, Philippines, together with 43 other developing countries who are part of the Climate Vulnerable Forum (CVF), are asking assistance from wealthier countries to give CVF nation members the capacity to shift from fossil fuel based energy to renewables. The Philippines heavily relies on burning dirty coal for energy, but seeks to transition to renewable energy.
By creating more awareness and educating citizens all over the world, especially those living in the developing countries, small islands and low-lying areas, we may help to regain the planet’s health and hopefully balance the climate. But what is really needed is for the heavily industrialised countries, and particularly the signatories to the Paris Agreement, to quickly roll out climate action policies to curb their massive greenhouse gas emissions and reduce impact on the world’s poorest.
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Feature image of woman hanging laundry in Cebu City by Adam Cohn via Flickr.