Poorer regions to take the most of climate risks
Wasi Ahmed | Published:
November 24, 2015 21:30:34
October 18, 2017 04:09:34
With all its inevitable effects on the globe as a whole, climate change is most dreaded for what it is capable of doing to the poorer communities. A new World Bank (WB) report shows that climate change is an acute threat to poorer people across the world, to push more than 100 million people back into poverty over the next fifteen years, especially in the regions of Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. The report combines the findings from household surveys in 92 countries that describe demographic structures and income sources with the most recent results on the impacts of climate change on agriculture productivity and food prices, natural hazards such as heat waves, flood and drought, and climate-sensitive diseases and other health consequences.
It is well known that climatic impacts will hit agriculture the hardest. Many other studies on effects of climate change on agriculture have indicated grim realities ahead. Climate projections suggest that average crop growing conditions will shift in the coming years and there will be more uncertainty in predicting climate and weather conditions. More concretely, these impacts will translate into an overall warming trend, an increasingly erratic distribution of precipitation, more frequent and more devastating extreme weather events, and spatial shifts in the occurrence of pests and diseases.
In fact, as research suggests, impacts of climate change have already started happening. Research shows that many agricultural regions have already experienced declines in crop and livestock production due to climate change-induced stress. Climate disruptions to agricultural production have increased over the past 40 years and are projected to increase further over the next 25 years.
Experts are unanimous that, among others, the key to facing the situation is essentially about managing agricultural risks. It has been stressed in many studies that agricultural risk management can play an important role in the transition to a climate-smart agriculture system by offering a useful entry point for dialogue. By assessing risks and their economic impacts, agricultural risk management practitioners can demonstrate the business case for investing in preventive, risk mitigation measures that reduce losses in the short and medium term. These same investments can help enhance productivity, adapt livelihood systems to changing climatic conditions, and contribute to reducing emissions. Quantifying losses can also create a sense of urgency that paves the way for broader efforts to operationalise climate-smart agriculture and integrate climate resilience into national strategies and policies.
Coming back to the WB report, it has been forecast that by 2030, crop yield losses could mean that food prices would be 12 per cent higher in Sub-Saharan Africa. The strain on poor households, who spend as much as 60 per cent of their income on food, could be acute. At the global level, warming of 2.0-3.0 degree celsius (C) could increase the number of people at risk from malaria by up to 5.0 per cent, or affliction to more than 150 million. Diarrhoea would be more prevalent, and increased water scarcity would have an effect on water quality and hygiene. The result would be an estimated 48,000 additional deaths among children under the age of 15 resulting from diarrheal illness by 2030.
As a result of direct or indirect impacts, the report says that without adequate development more than 100 million additional people would be living in poverty in the Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. In India alone, an additional 45 million people could be pushed back below the poverty line by 2030, primarily due to agricultural shocks and increased incidence of disease. The report argues that domestic resources in the countries of the regions may be insufficient, and international support will be essential. This is particularly relevant to investments that involve high immediate costs but are urgently needed to prevent lock-ins into carbon-intensive patterns, such as for urban transport, energy infrastructure or deforestation.
To prevent this grim picture becoming a reality, the WB report prescribes "good" development that is rapid, inclusive and climate-centric. This includes continuing and expanding programmes that reduce poverty while increasing people's capacity to prepare for and cope with shocks. These efforts will need to be coupled with targeted climate adaptation measures, such as protective infrastructure like dikes and drainage systems and mangrove restoration to deal with flooding, changing land-use regulations to account for sea level rise, disaster preparedness, and introduction of climate-resistant crops and livestock breeds. In the longer term, continued efforts to reduce global emissions will save poor people from climate impacts, according to the report. To be successful, governments should design mitigation policies so that they protect, and also benefit, poor people.
What the WB report and other studies on the subject in recent times have come up with are not unheard of. However, the nature and scope of impact in quantified terms is a revelation that should keep governments in susceptible regions more concerned than ever. Bangladesh should be no exception. In view of the hugely capital intensive nature of the task, many countries like Bangladesh are waiting for the international community to partner the mitigation challenge, which of course is not at all out of the way given the commitments made, though in vague terms for the most part. While these countries should collectively mobilise efforts towards a concrete deal in this regard, they should, if needed, redefine their strategies keeping the climate factor at the core of their development planning.