Application Exercise 10r: Climate change and poverty
- Outline the expected impacts of climate change on the world’s poorest people.
According to the UN, climate change will have devastating consequences for people in poverty. Hundreds of millions of the world’s poorest people will face food insecurity, forced migration, disease, and death. Economists, activists and scientist have pointed out that climate change is impacting, and will continue to impact, the most on those who have the least ability to deal with its effects – the world’s poorest people.
- Describe how climate change is impacting Australia, and its likely future impact.
Impacts of climate change in Australia currently include rising average summer temperatures (with blistering hot days and sleepless hot nights), more drought and early fire seasons. Rising sea temperatures are impacting the unique Great Barrier Reef.
Its likely future impacts include increased resources diverted to manage the impacts of the changes, including mitigating the damage of natural disasters and adapting to the new climate, and dealing with damage to coastal communities and decreased agricultural yields. It may become harder for people to work outside during hotter months, as extremely high temperatures become more common.
- Explain what the UN means when it describes the human rights impacts of climate change as a type of ‘climate apartheid’.
Apartheid is a form of segregation (historically in South African, it meant racial segregation and different rights for groups of people based on a racial classification system.) The UN uses the concept of ‘climate apartheid’ to describe the situation of the impact of climate change on the human rights of the poorest people around the globe. According to the UN, the rich of the world can and will pay to escape the overheating, heating and conflict resulting from climate change, but the poor will be left to suffer. The idea here is that there will be two different experiences of the climate crisis – depending on how wealthy a person is, with the poor suffering the most.
- Examine the data in Table 1. Based on Australia’s March 2019 per capita emissions of CO2, how many times more emissions did an average Australian produce relative to the country in the table with the highest per capita emissions?
The country in the table with the highest per capita emissions is Yemen, whose emissions are 0.443 tonnes of CO2 emitted per annum. Australia’s per capita emissions were 21.4 tonnes per capita in the year to March 2019. Australia’s emissions per capita were more than 48 times those of Yemen.
- Describe Australia’s relative global position as a contributor to the emissions that have brought about climate change.
Australia emits a high level of carbon per capita, however in terms of its overall emissions, its contribution to total global emissions is relatively low compared to some countries – ranking 16th in total world CO2 emissions. In 2020, Australia’s total emissions were one-twenty-seventh of China’s total emissions.
- Write a response to the following statement: Despite Australia’s low overall contribution to global emissions, its high per capita emissions mean Australia must be a key player in the effort to combat climate change.
Student responses will differ, however points raised may include:
- Australia contributes a relatively small amount overall to global emissions compared to the size of its economy – it ranks 16th overall for total emissions (globally) but 12th overall for size of economy (globally). It is only responsible for 1.3% of the world’s emissions, compared to the top 5 which are, in order: China, USA, India, Russia and Japan (2020 data).
- As a rich country, Australia continues to contribute to the emissions that impact the globe. Since it has the resources to reduce its emissions, there is a moral imperative to do so, given the impact on those who cannot adapt and reduce their emissions as readily.
- As a major global exporter of carbon-emitting products (Liquid natural gas and coal) Australia ‘exports’ a large proportion of the emissions (which is indirectly responsible for when those products are burned, and the CO2 and other greenhouse gases are emitted).
- Those countries with the fewest resource (and who contribute the least to the emission of greenhouse gases per capita) are those most affected by the damage from climate change (especially food vulnerability)
- Inclusion of evidence/data from the reading or other sources.