Climate Change Isn’t the Great Equalizer

At-Risk Populations Face the Biggest Climate Change Dangers

  • Graphic Gloria François

With another wildfire in California contributing to the worst wildfire season on record and forcing millions to evacuate, a common misconception sprouts up whenever there is a similar crisis in the richer areas of developed countries.

What consistently comes up during these times is the notion that regardless of social status, climate change affects everyone equally.

That could not be further from the truth, given the fact that it almost unilaterally affects low-income and emerging countries and populations.

Research published by the peer-reviewed journal Science Advances outlines how poorer countries in places like Asia, Latin America, and Sub-Saharan Africa are the ones who are going to suffer the largest increase in mean temperature. While European, North American, and the more industrialized Asian countries such as Japan and China pollute more, less industrial countries will bear the brunt of first-world pollution almost on their own.

Given that the economies of most developing countries revolves almost unilaterally around natural resources, their economies more than most will be affected by the drastic weather changes. An IMF report outlined that these changes in temperature will lead to increasingly radical weather such as regular droughts, heat waves, wildfires, and hurricanes in more tropical areas.

Not only are countries’ economies affected by climate disasters, but their people and their quality of life and security are significantly affected. One of the most glaring recent examples can be found right now in Syria, where a deadly civil war has not only crippled the country, but has turned millions into refugees.

In 2006, a massive drought in Syria forced a massive migration from rural areas of the country towards more urbanized centres, which in part stoked political tensions. While it is by no means the sole factor, the tensions largely fed into what ended up becoming a full blown civil war. The result from this conflict has lead to a massive portion of the population being displaced and contributing to the worst refugee crisis in 80 years. Former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein referred to the crisis as the “worst man-made disaster the world has seen since World War II.”

A United Nations reports also outlined that climate change “exacerbates inequality” and how most of the situations where people are well equipped can be found in wealthier areas of the planet. It also addresses the concept that people often discriminated on a basis of race, class, caste, as well as a plethora of other qualifiers are more likely to be affected by climate disasters and extreme weather conditions.

As for the notion that everyone is affected the same with regards to developed countries like the United States, an increase in the privatization of emergency response infrastructure— like firefighters— has lead to the wealthy being far more ready and equipped to deal with these kind of crises. As much as any news of Kardashians makes me audibly groan, the fact that Kim payed for a private firefighting force to protect her $50 million mansion only illustrated the problem further.

Earlier this year, when California was going through one of their worst droughts in the last decade, the cost of water rose as much as 127 per cent in areas like San Francisco, according to the water agency Circle of Blue. This dramatic price increase will dramatically affect the consumption of one of the few things the human body can’t survive without, but will also leave only the wealthy without having to change their water-usage habits.

At the end of the day, the wealthy will continue to pollute and will very rarely be forced to deal with the consequences of their actions. Actions like withdrawing from the Paris Climate Agreement and appointing coal lobbyists as directors of the Environmental Protection Agency are depressingly blatant acknowledgements of this fact.

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