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Climate change only for the poor?

I THINK, this question has been answered already many times. Fact is: climate change exacerbates inequalities, not only in poor, developing countries, but also in industrialized, wealthy ones. But, the poor should be given special importance when planning, experts and German National Television's author Irene Banos Ruiz say.

Since the topic "Climate Change" arrived already the last global spot, climate hysteria grows. As drought, flooding and fires lay claim to headlines and landscapes across the world, and as countries and cities grapple with the cost of it all, the highest price is already being paid — by those who are poor or marginalized, Ruiz voiced out. And yes, she is so very right.

Such are the findings of a recent study by  researchers Noah S. Diffenbaugh and Marshall Burke. It reveals that the economic gap between rich and poor countries would have been smaller without the climate crisis.

Eight of the ten countries most affected by extreme weather events — such as hurricanes and monsoon rains — between 1998 and 2017, were developing nations with low or lower-middle income, the Global Climate Risk Index of the NGO Germanwatch shows.

"Regions like Southeast Asia are very vulnerable, not only because they are often hit, but because they lack resources to deal with the impact," David Eckstein, co-author of the Index, told DW.

Of course, living in the Philippines and experiencing the climate change here since decades, I wasn't surprised any more reading the answer to the question: Where is the most extreme weather?

1.Puerto Rico, 2. Honduras, 3. Myanmar, 4. Haiti, 5. Philippines, 6. Nicaragua, 7. Bangladesh, 8. Pakistan, 9. Vietnam, 10. Dominca. Although natural disasters are not new, climate change increases their frequency and intensity, making it harder for those affected to cope with the impacts.

"Often, these countries are in the process of rebuilding when they're struck again by an event," Eckstein said.

Oxfam International says the two cyclones that hit Mozambique in rapid succession earlier this year left 2.6 million people in need of food, shelter and clean water. Thousands have had to look for a new place to live.

According to the Switzerland-based Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre they were among seven million — out of a total 10.8 million people internally displaced between January and June this year — forced to leave their homes because of weather-related disasters and earthquakes.

But even people who do not currently live in extreme poverty are at risk of becoming poor. I listened Harjeet Singh, climate policy lead with the NGO ActionAid International, during a television interview.. He recently visited the Sundarbans, where land has been swallowed by rising sea levels. "People there had resources, but their lives have been completely devastated by climate change impacts," he said. "They've fallen into the poverty trap."

He witnessed a similar situation in Senegal's Saloum Delta, where sea level rise is making it hard for communities to farm or fish. That's how people "become ultra poor and migrate without any resources, and become unskilled labor in urban areas," he explained.

Economic disparities due to climate change aren't unique to poorer countries.  A 2017 study published in the peer-reviewed journal, Science, says higher temperatures in US states such as Arizona will lead to a more intense use of cooling systems, which in turn implies greater energy use and higher costs for consumers.  

Some northern states, however, could benefit through reduced heating use, among other factors. In Maine, for instance, the most northeasterly US state, the gross county product could increase by up to to 10%, while in Arizona it could fall by as much as 20%, the study shows.

In the Spanish capital, Madrid, over 20% of households are at risk of energy poverty — the lack of capacity to keep homes warm in winter and cool in summer, a study requested by regional authorities shows.

Allow me to quote Eckstein from Germanwatch again, who says that initiatives to help countries recover are important, "but what is also necessary is for these countries to prepare in advance."

I.e. Bangladesh, he says, has improved its position in the Climate Risk Index because it deals with climate change impacts better than other countries. Among other measures, it has built seawalls to prevent flooding and introduced early warning systems to evacuate people on time.

Social protection mechanisms to help people relocate and learn new skills also matter.

"If relocation needs to happen, it has to happen in a much more planned manner," Singh said. But since the affected countries often lack the economic and technical capacity to go this far, international support plays a decisive role, he added.

Singh agrees that preventive planning is the key to reducing the inequality gap intensified by climate change.

"Current players are leading us to a 3 degrees [Celsius] warmer world," he said. "We really hope that we don't reach that point, but our planning has to be with that thinking." I can only agree with that my dear readers.

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