The IPCC reports on climate change represent the state-of-art knowledge on the subject. We ignore it to our peril.
While awaiting the release of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Working Group II report on “Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability” the world needs to realise that world’s vulnerable populations are already facing the impact of climate change. “Climate Change 2021: Physical Science Basis”, the report of IPCC Working Group I released in August 2021 has already testified to the “wide spread and rapid changes that have occurred” which are “unprecedented in at least the last 2000 years” and “affecting all inhabited areas”. What is particularly chilling is that these words represent an international consensus, and hence could be seen as an understatement of the crisis being faced, the reality would be considerably worse.
Already floods, storms, heat and cold waves, rising sea levels, water stress and air pollution disrupt the lives of millions of city dwellers and rural populations. The impact is felt most by the vulnerable and impoverished residents of the cities and landless agricultural labour, small farmers, pastoralists, tribal and indigenous people and other forest dwellers and coastal communities. The increased frequency of extreme weather events, unpredictable weather not only increase risk to disaster situations, but severely impact their resilience to cope with the ongoing agrarian crisis. In cities the labouring poor live in informal settlements or slums, most often located in areas prone to landslides, flooding, and other natural disasters. The lack of protective infrastructure, inadequate civic services, and overcrowding increase their vulnerabilities.
The last report of IPCC Working Group II, released in 2014 has already testified to the enhanced vulnerabilities from “multidimensional inequalities often produced by uneven development processes”. Going further to state that “people who are socially, economically, culturally, politically, institutionally, or otherwise marginalized are especially vulnerable to climate change” and that this “heightened vulnerability is the product of intersecting social processes that result in inequalities in socioeconomic status and income…. Such social processes include, for example, discrimination on the basis of gender, class, ethnicity, age, and (dis)ability.”
Keeping in mind that COVID-19 has exacerbated economic inequalities, gender discrimination and oppression, and militarism has again come on the ascendent with war in Europe and social divisions and conflict have not abated we can only anticipate that the much awaited IPCC Working Group II report on “Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability” will indicate further unfolding of the crisis faced by vulnerable communities across the Global South, made worse by climate change that they are least responsible for.
The IPCC reports represent state-of-the-art knowledge of climate change processes across the world, its impact on human populations and processes of mitigation. In the face of such overwhelming evidence it is tragic to see such inadequate response from the developed countries of the world to deal with the crisis on the basis of “common but differential responsibilities”. The vast majorities of the people of the Global South have done nothing to cause this crisis, yet they are bearing the brunt of the impact.
Communities dependent on ecological resources, can be transformed into ecological workers, if we recognize that the vast majorities landless agricultural labour, small peasants, pastoralists, tribal and other forest dwellers, small scale fish workers are natural custodians of ecological resources. Rather than focus on vulnerabilities, these communities can play a major role in mitigating the impact of climate change. The future can be made secure for all by empowering local governments empowers local stakeholders and communities to stimulate action. A survey of climate change initiatives found that of the 162 climate change initiatives studied in Asia, local non-state actors led 39% of them, involving communities, civil society, universities and the private sector. There is an urgent need to create a new global fund, including measures of debt relief, to support countries to recover from climate disasters and slow-onset events, such as flooding, drought and rising sea levels.
Sandeep Chachra, Executive Director, ActionAid Association says, “We need a pro-poor and inclusive approach to climate change action. More than just social imagery of sustainable life, we need a participatory, decentralized, futuristic and technology-enabled action on planning, building and managing rural and urban life. For a continent country like ours with immense cultural, ecological and landscape diversity, this constitutes the way forward. Ignoring the science as represented, albeit in an understated manner by the IPCC reports, would be akin to choosing extinction over survival. Let us not choose extinction.”
About ActionAid Association
ActionAid Association is an organisation working for social and ecological justice. ActionAid has been engaged with the most marginalised communities in India since 1972. In 2006, ActionAid Association was registered as an Indian organisation, governed by an independent General Assembly and a Governing Board. Together with supporters, communities, institutions and governments, we strive for equality, fraternity and liberty for all. ActionAid Association works in 24 states and two union territories, with several partners and allied organisations.
ActionAid Association is part of a global federation and a full affiliate of ActionAid International, that has presence in over 40 countries worldwide.
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