Climate Change Poised to Push 100 Million Into 'Extreme Poverty' by 2030
Adding urgency to the call for bold emissions cuts and a radical rethinking of the global economy, a new report from the World Bank warns that human-caused climate change could push more than 100 million people into extreme poverty within just 15 years.
Entitled "Shock Waves: Managing the Impacts of Climate Change on Poverty," the World Bank's study differs from previous efforts by looking at the poverty impacts of climate change at the household level, rather than at the level of national economies.
Already, global warming is sparking higher agricultural prices; increasing "natural hazards" such as heat waves, droughts and floods; and exacerbating public health issues. Photo credit: World Bank / Flickr
Already, global warming is sparking higher agricultural prices; increasing "natural hazards" such as heat waves, droughts and floods; and exacerbating public health issues, the report states. Without "immediate" adoption of mitigation, adaptation and emission-reduction policies, the World Bank cautions that rising greenhouse gases—and temperatures—will continue to ravage vulnerable populations, dragging them further into poverty.
The bank's most recent estimate puts the number of people currently living in extreme poverty at 702 million or 9.6 percent of the world’s population.
"Poor people and poor countries are exposed and vulnerable to all types of climate-related shocks—natural disasters that destroy assets and livelihoods; waterborne diseases and pests that become more prevalent during heat waves, floods or droughts; crop failure from reduced rainfall; and spikes in food prices that follow extreme weather events," it reads. "Climate-related shocks also affect those who are not poor but remain vulnerable and can drag them into poverty—for example, when a flood destroys a micro-enterprise, a drought decimates a herd or contaminated water makes a child sick."
For example, the report states that by 2030, crop yield losses could mean that food prices would be 12 percent higher on average in Sub-Saharan Africa. "The strain on poor households, who spend as much as 60 percent of their income on food, could be acute," the World Bank declares. Meanwhile, in India alone, an additional 45 million people could be pushed over the poverty line by 2030, primarily due to agricultural shocks and increased incidence of disease.
To combat these devastating impacts, Shock Waves recommends implementing a combination of:
- rapid, inclusive and climate-informed development and targeted adaptation interventions to cope with the short-term impacts of climate change; and
- pro-poor mitigation policies to limit long-term impacts and create an environment that allows for global prosperity and the sustainable eradication of poverty.
"The report demonstrates that ending poverty and fighting climate change cannot be done in isolation—the two will be much more easily achieved if they are addressed together," said Stephane Hallegatte, a senior economist at the World Bank who led the team that prepared the report.
#Shockwaves report out! Without #ClimateSmart dev, 100mln more ppl in Poverty by 2030: https://t.co/qEKlOxS2s7 https://t.co/yD7FbDbZmW— World Bank (@World Bank)1447127717.0
Among the report's specific recommendations are to improve health care systems and access; help households at all income levels gain access to financial instruments for risk management; and provide social protections to help support poor people affected by disasters or environmental and economic shocks.
Noting that "there is still too often a disconnect between bank research and its own practices," the head of Oxfam International's Washington office, Nicolas Mombrial, on Monday urged the global financial institution "to heed its own warnings and support equitable, low carbon development" and "promote community resilience to climate change through its policies and programs."
Furthermore, he said, the report adds further credence to the call for an ambitious agreement to come out of the upcoming COP21 climate talks in Paris. "Any climate deal must commit countries to making their greenhouse gas cuts more aggressive and help vulnerable countries to adapt to climate impacts," Mombrial said. "It must also promote clean growth by dramatically increasing public finance, building on the yearly $100 billion already promised by 2020."
"This report further highlights what Oxfam has been warning for many years: climate change is exacerbating inequality and hurting poor people first and worst," Mombrial concluded. "To effectively solve the climate crisis we must simultaneously tackle the root causes of poverty and hunger globally."
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One of nature's epic events is underway: Monarch butterflies' fall migration. Departing from all across the United States and Canada, the butterflies travel up to 2,500 miles to cluster at the same locations in Mexico or along the Pacific Coast where their great-grandparents spent the previous winter.
Millions of People Care About Monarchs<p>I will never forget the sights and sounds the first time I visited monarchs' overwintering sites in Mexico. Our guide pointed in the distance to what looked like hanging branches covered with dead leaves. But then I saw the leaves flash orange every so often, revealing what were actually thousands of tightly packed butterflies. The monarchs made their most striking sounds in the Sun, when they burst from the trees in massive fluttering plumes or landed on the ground in the tussle of mating.</p><p>Decades of educational outreach by teachers, researchers and hobbyists has cultivated a generation of monarch admirers who want to help preserve this phenomenon. This global network has helped restore not only monarchs' summer breeding habitat by planting milkweed, but also general pollinator habitat by planting nectaring flowers across North America.</p><p>Scientists have calculated that restoring the monarch population to a stable level of about 120 million butterflies will require <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/icad.12198" target="_blank">planting 1.6 billion new milkweed stems</a>. And they need them fast. This is too large a target to achieve through grassroots efforts alone. A <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/CCAA.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">new plan</a>, announced in the spring of 2020, is designed to help fill the gap.</p>
Pros and Cons of Regulation<p>The top-down strategy for saving monarchs gained energy in 2014, when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service <a href="https://www.fws.gov/southeast/pdf/petition/monarch.pdf" target="_blank">proposed</a> listing them as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. A decision is expected in December 2020.</p><p>Listing a species as endangered or threatened <a href="https://www.fws.gov/endangered/esa-library/pdf/listing.pdf" target="_blank">triggers restrictions</a> on "taking" (hunting, collecting or killing), transporting or selling it, and on activities that negatively affect its habitat. Listing monarchs would impose restrictions on landowners in areas where monarchs are found, over vast swaths of land in the U.S.</p><p>In my opinion, this is not a reason to avoid a listing. However, a "threatened" listing might inadvertently threaten one of the best conservation tools that we have: public education.</p><p>It would severely restrict common practices, such as rearing monarchs in classrooms and back yards, as well as scientific research. Anyone who wants to take monarchs and milkweed for these purposes would have to apply for special permits. But these efforts have had a multigenerational educational impact, and they should be protected. Few public campaigns have been more successful at raising awareness of conservation issues.</p>
<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="91165203d4ec0efc30e4632a00fdf57d"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/KilPRvjbMrA?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
The Rescue Attempt<p>To preempt the need for this kind of regulation, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service approved a <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/pdfs/Monarch%20CCAA-CCA%20Public%20Comment%20Documents/Monarch-Nationwide_CCAA-CCA_Draft.pdf" target="_blank">Nationwide Candidate Conservation Agreement for Monarch Butterflies</a>. Under this plan, "rights-of-way" landowners – energy and transportation companies and private owners – commit to restoring and creating millions of acres of pollinator habitat that have been decimated by land development and herbicide use in the past half-century.</p><p>The agreement was spearheaded by the <a href="http://rightofway.erc.uic.edu/" target="_blank">Rights-of-Way Habitat Working Group</a>, a collaboration between the University of Illinois Chicago's <a href="https://erc.uic.edu/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Energy Resources Center</a>, the Fish and Wildlife Service and over 40 organizations from the energy and transportation sectors. These sectors control "rights-of-way" corridors such as lands near power lines, oil pipelines, railroad tracks and interstates, all valuable to monarch habitat restoration.</p><p>Under the plan, partners voluntarily agree to commit a percentage of their land to host protected monarch habitat. In exchange, general operations on their land that might directly harm monarchs or destroy milkweed will not be subject to the enhanced regulation of the Endangered Species Act – protection that would last for 25 years if monarchs are listed as threatened. The agreement is expected to create up to 2.3 million acres of new protected habitat, which ideally would avoid the need for a "threatened" listing.</p>
A Model for Collaboration<p>This agreement could be one of the few specific interventions that is big enough to allow researchers to quantify its impact on the size of the monarch population. Even if the agreement produces only 20% of its 2.3 million acre goal, this would still yield nearly half a million acres of new protected habitat. This would provide a powerful test of the role of declining breeding and nectaring habitat compared to other challenges to monarchs, such as climate change or pollution.</p><p>Scientists hope that data from this agreement will be made publicly available, like projects in the <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/MCD.html" target="_blank">Monarch Conservation Database</a>, which has tracked smaller on-the-ground conservation efforts since 2014. With this information we can continue to develop powerful new models with better accuracy for determining how different habitat factors, such as the number of milkweed stems or nectaring flowers on a landscape scale, affect the monarch population.</p><p>North America's monarch butterfly migration is one of the most awe-inspiring feats in the natural world. If this rescue plan succeeds, it could become a model for bridging different interests to achieve a common conservation goal.</p>
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