According to Balkan Green Energy News, the first of January 2023 was the hottest ever recorded. Scientists agree that this was an extreme weather event because of its intensity; the old records were broken by large margins of 4 to 5 degrees Celsius. This is a result of climate change.
What is climate change?
According to UN definitions, climate change refers to long-term shifts in temperatures and weather patterns. These shifts may be natural, but since the 1800s, human activities have been the main driver of climate change, primarily due to burning fossil fuels (like coal, oil, and gas), which produce heat-trapping gases.
The wealthiest countries in the world, the US and China alone, account for 31% of the world’s carbon emissions, according to Carbon Brief. Climate change affects the poorest countries the most, which is ironic—the poor pay for what the rich do.
Climate change endangers the world’s food supply because of droughts and floods brought on by it. The shortened food supply has resulted in an increase in food prices and limited access to food, putting many at risk of hunger and undernutrition, according to the Mercy Corp. Undernutrition is the biggest health impact of climate change, according to Mercy Corp almost 9% of the world’s population is undernourished, and most people now live in low or middle-income countries.
Climate change is predicted to result in an additional 250 000 deaths per year between 2030 and 2050, mostly from starvation, malaria, diarrhoea, and heat stress. 2030 is seven years away!
In the present day we have the effects of climate change taking lives. In April 2023, 435 people died, and an unknown number of people were missing in the deadly Kwa-Zulu Natal floods. The infrastructure damage caused by the floods amounted to R17 billion. The World Weather Attribution released a study linking climate change to the intensity of the floods.
The scope of the countries in carbon emissions is the same as for everyday people. The richer people produce more carbon emissions, and the poor are the most affected by climate change. As the death toll of the KZN floods was rising, informal settlement people were left stranded with little to no hope. Their houses were washed away, and no house insurance money was coming to rescue them.
The measures people can implement to prevent climate change are things the poor are already doing. Reduce your carbon footprint by taking public transport; guess who most users of public transport are? The poor. Use less power so that power plants expend less energy and produce fewer greenhouse gases. If you lived in South Africa in the last 16 years, you’ve been using less energy. But beyond that, when people do use energy, the rich use more on pool pumps, air conditioning and a host of other things.
Climate change affects low-income earners; it puts them on the verge of starvation and many other health hazards. Health issues associated with climate change include increased respiratory and cardiovascular disease, injuries and premature deaths related to extreme weather events, changes in the prevalence and geographical distribution of food- and water-borne illnesses and other infectious diseases, and threats to mental health, according to the Centre for Disease Control.
Access to proper healthcare is limited to the rich in poorer countries. Much like in our country, healthcare may be free; but our healthcare system is overcrowded due to needing more staff and funding. Hospitals do not have proper resources.
In 1973, David Gordon Wilson proposed the carbon tax. Carbon tax is tax against carbon emissions required to produce goods and services. The tax was initially proposed as a solution, but it became a problem for the poor as prices on these services took a hike. Even solutions are a problem for the poor.
Everyone in the world needs to be conscious of their carbon footprint and take practical measures to decrease it. Take that taxi to work instead of your car, switch off your pool pumps, be like Eskom and turn your lights off.
Tell us: What are your thoughts on climate change?
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