Climate and Poverty


The objective of the research is to establish the linkages between poverty and climate change. For both the government and the NGOs in South Asia, poverty alleviation is the central focus of their planning efforts. Poverty is already an unbearable state and is a major retarding force in development. Impacts of climate change are likely to affect those who are already most vulnerable. The issues arising out of the discussions and which may be included in the paper are :

  • What is the contribution of the poor to the Global Warming problem at the levels of :
    • individual
    • household
    • community
    • country
  • How much control do the poor have over their existing life style? To what extent do the poor have to adapt, migrate or to change agronomic practices as a consequence of impacts of GCC?
  • What role do international forces play in perpetuating and directing life-style of the poor through trade, aid or determining research agenda?
  • While it has been argued that it is difficult to identify winners or losers of climate change at a conceptual level, in reality, the poorest are the least able to bear the burden of change and consequently, the greatest losers. For example, the impact of cyclone of similar intensity killed over 100,000 people in Bangladesh while the casualty in the Mississippi delta was less than one hundred. The relative impacts on the country’s economy are qualitatively different. The ability of the poor to bounce back is limited and their existing vulnerability is accentuated by climate change related impacts.
  • Dynamics of poverty is independent of climate, but exacerbated by climate change.
  • The life-style forced on the poor and imposed developmental prescriptions have assumed a direct and proportional relationship between living standards, energy needs and therefore GHG emission. This paradigm must be challenged and the forces that perpetuate this must be overcome.
  • Technology Status is a determinant e.g., biomass burning can be made more efficient to provide higher level of energy service.
  • The relatively longer time-scale of climate change distorts priority of economic planning. Economic planners feel a compulsion to deal with desperate poverty needs which shortens time horizons, making them less able to deal with longer yet inevitable change. This perpetuates the long-term state of poverty.
  • Perception of poverty is a function of state of development or economic status. Northern CAN groups will need to be motivated to undertake the poverty linkages with climate and make it a priority issue in their own governments.