IPCC’s Sixth Assessment Report
- The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (ipcc) has so far published two installments of its Sixth Assessment Report (AR6).
- The first report, “The Physical Science Basis” released in September 2021, unequivocally attributed extreme weather events to climate change.
- The 2nd report, “Climate Change 2022: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability” lays bare that inequality makes certain communities and countries more vulnerable to climate change impacts.
- Under the latest report, IPCC for the first time authoritatively states that climate justice now needs to be at the centre of global policy-making. It identifies 127 risks to natural and human systems and notes that nearly half the global population now lives in settings that are “highly vulnerable to climate change.
Survival at Risk
- The report has highlighted that the poor typically have low carbon footprints but are disproportionately affected by adverse consequences of climate change adding that they lack access to adaptation options.
- The report identifies that the most vulnerable regions are located in Global South—East, Central and West Africa, South Asia, Micronesia and in Central America. These regions already reel from the compound challenges of high levels of poverty, inadequate access to basic services like water and sanitation, gender inequalities and poor governance.
- Over 3.3 billion people live in countries classified as very highly or highly vulnerable such as Mozambique, Somalia, Nigeria, Afghanistan and Haiti while 1.8 billion are in countries with low or very low vulnerability such as the UK, Australia, Canada and Sweden.
- The population in most vulnerable countries is projected to increase significantly by 2050 and 2100.
Poverty Trap in Making
- While climate change is already causing more frequent and severe floods, heat waves, wildfires and habitat destruction, the biggest impact will be on agricultural systems.
- Eg: Yields of major cereal crops in climate-affected areas are already significantly lower than they were due to today’s current 1.1°C increase in global temperature averages above pre-industrial levels.
- According to an earlier IPCC report, if the temperature increase reaches 1.5°C, the country will go through a total climate disaster under which about 8% of the world’s farmland would become unsuitable for agriculture while an increase of 2°C, or more,
could be catastrophic.
- Though the impact of crop failure will be felt worldwide, this will be particularly acute in Africa, Asia, Central and South America, on small island nations and in the Arctic.
- Climate change is likely to force economic transitions among the poorest groups, accelerating the switch from agriculture to other forms of wage labour.
- Even with moderate climate change, people in vulnerable regions will experience a further erosion of livelihood security that can interact with humanitarian crises, such as displacement and forced migration and violent conflict, and lead to social tipping points that can also be coupled with environmental tipping points.
- Under an inequality scenario, the projected number of people living in extreme poverty may increase by 122 million by 2030.
- At 2°C of warming, people in sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia and Small Island Developing States will face severe food shortages and malnutrition. This will require farmers and agricultural systems to adapt, from adjusting growing seasons to switching crops or installing water-saving irrigation systems.
- The report also provides evidence that climate change may exacerbate poverty indirectly through increasing the cost of food, housing and healthcare, among other rising costs borne by the poor.
- The report has found that across 92 developing countries, the poorest 40% of the population experienced losses that were 70% greater than the losses of people with average wealth.
- Thus, Risk of extreme impoverishment increases for low-income people experiencing repeated and successive climatic events with slow- and rapid onset climate events related to drought, such as rising temperatures, heatwaves, and rainfall scarcity with devastating consequences for agriculture.
- Without strong adaptation measures, the losses and damages will likely be concentrated among the poorest vulnerable populations.
- Considering the disproportionate impacts of climate hazard on most vulnerable groups and regions and their relatively minor contribution to anthropogenic climate change, it is evident that vulnerability reduction and adaptation to climate change have also to be seen as an issue of climate justice and climate-just development.
- Climate change risks also carry the risk of amplifying or aggravating existing tensions within and between communities and countries which needs to be addressed by prioritizing between those who are able to protect themselves from climate change impacts and those who do not have sufficient resources.
- Climate justice requires consideration of the legal, institutional and governance frameworks that significantly determine whether adaptation is successful in addressing the needs of the poor.