Yes, Climate Change Affects Poverty

February 8, 2016

By Kathleen Mannard

 College education provides formative years for young adults to expand and challenge their knowledge of politics. With so many college students voting in their first presidential election in 2016, it is important for them to know the issues impacting their lives and future; especially how political decisions affect all aspects of society.
I administered an anonymous survey for 50 students at the University of Pittsburgh who are eligible to vote in this year’s November election. Each participant rated different political issues, which were discussed by presidential candidates at least once in debates, according to their personal beliefs. My goal was to determine what percentage of participants rated climate change and the environment as highly significant issues. Of the 50 students, 64% rated climate change as a very important concern. Comparatively, 60% of the participants rated poverty as a high concern.
Although the results show a correlation in the amount of people who view poverty and climate change as important issues to address, not many students understand the staggering effects environmental change has on poverty.
On February 6th 2016, The World Bank featured a story “Climate Change Complicates Efforts to End Poverty”. The article explains how the erratic shifts in the environment affect economies and the dispersing of government resources. “…Those living in poverty…are already the most at risk from climate change. They have the fewest resources to adapt or recovery quickly from shocks, and they often live on the most vulnerable land…,” the article explains. Farming land requires access to water, and affordable homes are built along rivers and lakes. These water resources provide a foundation for sustainable lives and flourishing economies. However, weather events can cause a fall into poverty very quickly when livelihoods are lost.
The United States is not immune to the effects of climate change or poverty. Government spending on green house energy impacts the world’s ecosystem, not just one country’s environment. The reformation of climate change policy—the switching of fossil fuel energy to renewable energy—would cost more but also create more solutions to targeting poverty worldwide. The World Bank provides possible solutions:
  • Climate policies generate public finances to lower income taxes and create a low-income climate action credit tax to help lower incomes with energy costs.
  • Divesting from fossil fuel subsidiaries would lower emissions and free up government spending for support to the poor.
  • Mitigating the outcomes of higher energy prices through subsidized programs
  • Implementation of effective social protection systems that help increase access to basic services such as to health care and financial services including loans to help rebuild or build businesses after weather disasters

The creation of these safety nets for extreme poverty is vital in the years to come as climate change worsens. Non-action by governments to reduce green house emissions will not only drastically affect the livability of our planet, but also weaken economies and further divide the resources accessible for the wealthy and poor. Americans may not feel the pressures of climate change as impoverished countries that rely heavily on fossil fuels; however, the issue will not fade unless action is taken to reduce emissions to net zero.


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