Climate Change & Poverty: An Unbreakable Bond

We have all heard the term climate change. However, for some reason I don’t feel like Pakistan and its population care much about its impact. Is it because it only strikes the poor in our society and they don’t even know that its climate change? Or is it because the elite are in most cases well-shielded from the drastic impacts? If you don’t care then ask yourself, why is the world going crazy over this issue?

We all can agree on the fact that changes in climatic conditions of an area will directly impact the agricultural produce. For Pakistan climate change is a big issue since it is highly dependent on agricultural produce for its GDP. To simplify it, imagine you own a huge piece of land. The land is dependent on rain (hence called rain-fed area). 80% of your income comes from the crop you produce and sell. Now imagine because of climate change, there is no rain (or the rain pattern has changed). You have no crop to sell and hence you have no money.

Many small farmers go through this ordeal every day because of climate change. Every time disasters take place, the poor in the society pay the heaviest price. It is always the farmers, the fish mongers, the fisherman, the laborer, and the miners who pay the price.

Pakistan ranks 10 on the Global Climate Risk Index and is under threat from climate change effects even though it has contributed a miniscule amount to global greenhouse gases. Climate change-induced disasters, particularly floods and erratic rainfall patterns, have badly affected water, agriculture and energy sectors. It is evident that this climate change affects the destitute amongst us at a greater level.

Poverty and climate change are very well connected. The drastic increase in deforestation has a lot to contribute to the climate change-induced disasters. Deforestation largely takes place because poor people have no other sustainable means for income and have zero access to fuel their stoves. Poverty is also the main reason as to why people don’t educate their children which leaves them as illiterate further contributing to the lack of environmental awareness problem. According to World Bank, 62% of Pakistan’s population lives in rural areas hence, employing 50% of the labor in agricultural related activity. Agriculture is climate sensitive and it is obvious how this could impact the poverty stricken people.

According to World Bank, ‘Ending poverty and addressing climate change are the two defining issues of our time. Both are essential to achieving our sustainable global development. But they cannot be considered in isolation.’ Tackling the issue of poverty would also help mitigate the effects of climate change on the national level. This calls for organization at grass-root level to adopt approaches that would help curb the effects of climate change induced disasters.

Good news regarding global poverty is that according to the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (2015), the target of reducing extreme poverty rates by half was met five years ahead of the 2015 deadline. Furthermore, more than 1 billion people have been lifted out of extreme poverty since 1990. This should galvanize and inspire similar approaches to be adopted by the Government of Pakistan to tackle poverty and address the issue of climate change at local, regional, and national level.

The Conference on Climate Change in Paris needs not isolate the issue of climate change but rather use an integrative approach to resolve the issue at hand. Currently, the best approach Pakistan should adopt would be to tackle the issue keeping in the mind the section of the society most affected by the disastrous impacts of climate change.

The writer is Chairperson Environmental Watch Trust and can be reached at blackstreaks@gmail.com.

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