This OPED was written by Seema Chittalae
The consequences of climate change, have unequal effects in low-income countries and on poor people in high-income countries, despite significant differences in their green gas house emissions. In 2004, the United States, Canada, and Australia produced 6 metric tons, of green gas emissions, whereas Japan and Western European countries produced about 2 to 5 metric tons. In contrast, developing countries contribute overall 0.6 -2 metric tons. The most vulnerable of the population, are poor people, minority status, female gender, young or old people, and people with diseases and disabilities are more affected than the general population.
The environmental effects of climate change include increased temperature, both at surface and sea level, bringing in drought on one hand and excess precipitation, with hurricanes and floods.
The adverse health effects include heat-related disorders, vector-borne diseases, food and water-borne diseases, respiratory illness, malnutrition, and mental health issues.
Women in low-income countries are responsible for collecting water, fuel, and food, however, have different kinds of challenges during a drought, and may have an increased possibility of injury and rape. Moreover, women are more vulnerable than men, to extreme weather-related events, and also susceptible, to waterborne diseases.
As per the World Health Organization (WHO), 88% of children, less than 5 years, are affected by climate change. They are more affected by weather-related changes, have malnutrition, and their education is also affected.
Indigenous peoples, who live close to the natural environment, are more affected by weather-related climate change and will have difficulty in obtaining food, water, and shelter.
People in different geographic locations, like people in Arctic places are affected by unusual warming in the Arctic area. Likewise, people living in low-lying areas are in increased danger of flooding.
Climate change produces extreme weather-related natural disasters, 80 times more in developing countries, than in developed countries. In the United States, one recent example was the Hurricane Katrina in 2005. This hurricane affected the most vulnerable populations, like poor people, people of color, and those without any political power. People from low-lying areas were trapped and sought shelter in short-term shelter and long-term shelter, whereas rich people, were easily able to evacuate the areas.
Policies can be implemented to reduce green gas emissions, responsible for climate change, in the energy, transportation, and agricultural sectors. Energy demands can be reduced, by using renewable energy and decreased use of fossil fuels. Transportation policies can promote the use of battery-operated vehicles, walking, and biking. Agricultural policies may include decreased meat production and consumption, and reduced methane emissions. Planting more trees and expanding the forests can also help in removing green gas house emissions from the forest.
It is important to adapt and diminish the effects of climate change globally and provide impartial measures to protect all minority populations.
Climate Change, Human Rights, and Social Justice
Barry S. Levy, MD, MPH, Jonathan A. Patz, MD, MPH
Sherborn, MA; and Madison, WI